In the midst of their transitions to online learning, five local institutions of higher learning have found ways to give back to the community it serves.

Florida Southern College

When news of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) started hitting the airwaves, professors at Florida Southern College were quick to act on Dr. Brittany Gasper’s suggestion to donate items they normally would have used in classes to local medical staff.

Gasper, an associate professor of biology, suggested that medical-grade gloves, face masks, safety glasses, isolation gowns and more be donated to Lakeland Regional Health to help the hospital deal with what was then becoming a critical shortage. With classes being taught remotely, Gasper knew the equipment would not be used by nursing and other students in labs for several weeks, even months.

“I came up with the idea while thinking about all the supplies we had around that we would not be using,” Gasper said. “My mind went from ‘what a shame that we cannot use these supplies’ to ‘wow, I bet others would get more use out of these. So, I approached my department chair about it and we received a strong vote of support from the department as a whole.  We sent the idea up to the administration, who got other departments (like Nursing, Physical Therapy and Chemistry) onboard.  The support from the college as a whole was tremendous!”

After looking throughout the campus for any unused PPE, professors and their colleagues found and donated 19,400 pairs of synthetic nitrile gloves, 875 pairs of nitrile long gloves, 100 pairs of chemical-resistant neoprene gloves, 50 pairs of surgical gloves, 900 facial masks, 411 lab coats, 60 isolation gowns, 42 goggles, 12 safety glasses, and two face shields, according to the Florida Southern website.

“Everyone thought it was a great idea and a great gesture for the health care field since they can use the donated materials so much more than we can right now,” Gasper said.

Southeastern University

At Southeastern University, several professors in the College of Education have created a free video series for parents to help them with teaching children at home.

Dr. Janet Deck and Dr. Sarah Yates, who home-schooled their own children and taught in public schools, developed “Going Remote,” a free five-part learning series, to provide tips and encouragement. With more than 30 years of teaching experience combined, they included “helpful anecdotes and learning strategies to incorporate at home for each level of learning, from pre-K through high school,” said Dana Davis, SEU’s chief communications officer.

Deck assures parents that they can help their children learn. “You have been teaching your kids since the day they were born. You may not have experience teaching in a formal educational setting, but natural learning is the best kind.”

The videos can be accessed here.

The university is also holding free weekly webinars for pastors to share best practices for holding services online.

Polk State College

Polk State College Director of Communications Madison Fantozzi said the school is supporting local health care workers, and therefore the community, three ways:

  • It has signed a memorandum of understanding with Winter Haven Hospital Baycare allowing it to use two ventilators, if needed, from the college’s Respiratory Care Program.
  • It donated 300 surgical masks to the Polk County Emergency Operations Center.
  • The college is working with the Polk County Health Department to make its parking lots available for COVID-19 testing sites, if needed.

Florida Polytechnic University

The Student Government Association at Florida Polytechnic University has started a fund — Phund-a-Phoenix — to help students facing unexpected expenses during the pandemic. The SGA donated $10,000 to start the fund, using money that had been set aside to host events, all of which have been canceled at this time, said SGA President Ryan Perez. It will add another $10,000 to help students facing emergency-related expenses that may impede their academic progress.

“We understand that this is a very hard time for students and their families, and we wanted to find a way to help,” Perez said.

In addition, the University’s 3D printing lab has partnered with AdventHealth to provide headbands for face shields.

Keiser University

Keiser University, a statewide college with a campus in Lakeland, donated PPE to Lakeland Regional Health, its employer partner.

“Many of our individual campuses are donating their supplies to their local health care providers/partners,” said Carly Evans, director of communications.