Caring, creative newsletters offering key source of support for students

By Drew Wilson | March 25, 2020


PITTSBURGH— In a “normal” world, resident assistants (RAs) may lend a word of advice, a sympathetic ear, or even settle a dispute between residents on their floor of the residence hall. COVID-19 has turned the idea of a normal world upside down for now, but Carlow University’s RA’s may have a solution.

“We met with the RAs, brainstormed with them a bit about how to maintain community, and decided that weekly newsletters would be beneficial,” said Keith Cerroni, director of residence life. “While the RAs must do newsletters of some kind, they have total autonomy over them, and the content will continue to be what they are inspired to create for their specific floor community.”

Brooke Gallagher, a sophomore nursing major, said the goal for her newsletter was to provide some comfort during a hectic, unpredictable time.

“I wanted them each to know that I still care about them and want to know how they are doing,” she said. “I added in a little ‘letter from me’ in addition to the email I had sent out congratulating them on almost finishing their freshman year of college, along with three seniors that live on my floor. While we are all at home, many of us have online classes, but all of our free time allows for relaxation and time to ourselves.”

Gallagher recommended some of her favorite Netflix shows she thought might be “binge-worthy,” as well as a recipe for buffalo chicken dip that she loves. She also added some basic information about COVID-19. 

“I feel as though there is a lot of information circulating, some accurate and some not, resulting in some mixed feelings towards this pandemic,” she said. “I wanted the girls to know and understand that it is okay to worry, but to just remember to be safe and healthy while taking precautions.”

Michaela Pry, who is also a sophomore nursing major, had similar feelings for her newsletter.

“I wanted my residents to know that while everything around us seems to be changing, the fact that I will always be there for them remains constant,” she said. “I think that I chose to add the articles that I did in my newsletter because those were the things that I needed to hear myself. I figured that if I needed to hear the things in my newsletter to help me get through this time, then my residents would too.  I meant for my newsletter to be uplifting and inspirational as well as a distraction to the craziness happening in the world.”

Before the March 23 restrictions were put in place by the state and Allegheny County, about 50 students had returned to the residence halls and then stayed there to shelter in place. Emma Wilson, a senior respiratory care major and the Student Government Association president, focused on those students in particular.

“I understand that this is a very challenging time for everyone, not only my residents, but especially for those who are not able to go home and are confined to their dorm room,” Wilson said. “I chose to include a recipe that would be simple for those residents who may only have access to the microwaves in their rooms. I also encouraged my residents to get creative with their time by engaging in unique and productive outlets, to help to maintain a healthy mental state.”

The reception thus far has been extremely positive, and the newsletters will continue weekly throughout the rest of the semester, they agreed.

Gallagher said that she has been thanked for thinking of others during this time of so much uncertainty. The response was as gratifying as it was unexpected.

“I did not expect that making a floor newsletter could be so rewarding,” Pry said. “It is such a great feeling to know that you can be there for someone and that the little things you do can make a difference.”