Orange County Community Colleges Aid COVID-19 Response Efforts Programs

June 30, 2020
woman's hands on a sewing machine stitching a covid face mask

Despite the ongoing disruptions to our personal and professional lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County’s community college career education programs continue to rise to the challenge of supporting our students and communities. The following article highlights some of these college and student-led COVID-19 response efforts and their positive impacts.

Coastline College: Biotech Students Go 3D

Coastline College Biotechnology students, Gienel Rayos and Omar Medani, are applying the skills they learned in 3D printing to make personal protective equipment using designs approved and tested by the National Institute of Health. Under the supervision of Professor Dr. Tanya Hoerer, the team is using Coastline College’s 3D printers and “printing out” three-dimensional face shields for local clinics, first responders and hospitals.

According to Dr. Hoerer, Professor, Biological Science, and Allied Health, Coastline College, “The science faculty at Coastline are eager to help our local and national medical and first responder communities,” she said. “We are proud to support these students as they apply the knowledge they gained in our 3D printing program to make a real impact with their skills.”

Currently, the program has three printers in operation but is fundraising through the Coastline Foundation to expand at-home efforts support with needed building materials, machinery, packaging, and printing.

Cypress College: Mortuary Science Student Preps for the Frontlines

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists across the county, the need for medical first responders, such as doctors and nurses, is well known. Less well known is the need for last responders—those qualified professionals who tend not only to the recently deceased but provide closure and comfort to families in times of tragedy.

When the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) alerted its members that volunteers in heavily affected areas would be valuable in addressing the pandemic, Cypress College Mortuary Science student Soraya Pitram responded.

Pitram, a second year student who works in the industry at two Orange County funeral homes, secured the proper identification but when it came time to go, volunteers in closer proximity were selected instead to fill NFDA’s two-week volunteer rounds.

“I was already packed and ready to go — I had my scrubs — and then they told me that they had sufficient staff,” Pitram said. She planned to work in New York City for two weeks at a medical center and teaching hospital.

“What I’ll be doing now, since I have my ID, is that I have access to all volunteer opportunities,” Pitram said. “When people’s two weeks are over, I’ll have a chance to go.”

Irvine Valley College: Theater Department Embraces New Role

In response to the protective mask shortage created by COVID-19, a small team from the Irvine Valley College (IVC) Theatre Department decided to do something about it.

IVC’s costume/makeup designer Nancy Bracken, dance costume seamstress Nancy Taylor, and student Swede Mont got to work sewing masks for IVC staff, particularly those still working on campus, such as staff from the facilities department, IT, and campus police.

Using leftover fabrics from IVC’s costume shop as well as materials gathered from their own personal supplies, the team began sewing masks following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Using cotton fabric, pipe cleaner for a nose piece, and elastic for ear loops, the masks also have pockets for the user to insert a filter of their choice.

Working from home, they began the project in early April and one month later had delivered over 275 masks. After refining their techniques, they are now able to deliver about 50 masks per week to members of the IVC community who need them.

North Orange Continuing Education (NOCE): Effective Parenting Class Goes Online

NOCE’s “Parenting 102: Effective Parenting” course was converted to a 100 percent online class in fewer than two weeks. Instructors and staff worked long hours to refresh the class and launch it online while a tremendous effort was made to ensure translations in Spanish were available for five of the 11 course offerings.

Designed to provide strategies to create calm from chaos, the class helps caregivers manage everyone from toddlers to teens, providing key parenting tactics and strategies for maintaining boundaries and emotions in what can be stressful situations.

“Words cannot describe what an enormous feat it was to complete everything and get it translated and available in Spanish as well as learning how to use live translation through Zoom,” says Day, who helped prepare all of the translation materials in less than a week. According to the Special Projects Manager, the great effort was well worth it, as more than 49 percent of NOCE’s parenting students speak Spanish as their primary language.

Though NOCE’s Parenting Program has offered Spanish translation for several years, Assistant Professor Erin Sherard says that making translation accessible for online classes has been critical.

“We will continue to do what we can to make sure that every parent that would like support and community right now has access to it,” says Sherard. A “dream team” of experts renewed the robust class. More than 100 students, including parents, grandparents, social workers, foster parents, child psychologists, and school therapists, are receiving much-needed assistance.

Orange Coast College: Makerspace Making Masks and Key Fobs

Orange Coast College’s Makerspace is supporting its campus community’s COVID-19 response by making face masks and touchless key fobs.

Using laser machines, 3D printers, and sewing machines, OCC’s Makerspace has designed and created about 100 PPE face masks and over 300 no touch key fobs for OCC’s Campus Safety and Maintenance and Operations staff.

Makerspace co-founder Steven Fuchs hopes providing these resources for faculty working on campus will keep them safer as they work.

No-touch key fobs allow users to accomplish everyday tasks like opening doors, turning locks and typing numbers on a key pad without having to physically touch the object, thereby reducing a user’s physical exposure to surface germs. Fuchs, a professor of architecture and design at OCC, sourced a design from and modified it to make it stronger using OCC’s 3D printers.

At the same time, the PPE face masks being produced take advantage of a unique design that allows the user to recycle the masks instead of throwing them away. According to Makerspace coordinator Garrett Hill, the masks incorporate sleeves that allow a person to replace the filter, which helps prevent bacteria and germs from invading the fabric.

Saddleback College: Saddleback Cleans House with PPE Donations

In an effort to help local health care workers get the Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) they desperately need to keep themselves safe as they treat COVID-19 patients, faculty and staff in the Health Sciences and Human Services, Mathematics, Science and Engineering, and Fine Arts and Media Technology divisions banded together to donate their inventory of N-95 respirator masks, protective eye wear, gloves, gowns, and hospital-grade cleaning supplies. The much-needed supplies were donated to local clinical partners, including Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Mission Hospital, and Orange County Global Medical Center. All expressed gratitude as they struggle to find the PPE they need as they respond to the influx of Covid-19 patients.

As these divisions started to collect their inventory, the state’s Health Workforce Initiative created a spreadsheet to track the PPE inventory of all the community colleges in the state in order to track where the supplies were distributed. At the time of donation, Saddleback was the only college in the state to have divisions in math and science and fine arts contribute to the effort.



Santa Ana College: Food Giveaway Fills Community Need

Santa Ana College was the site of a food giveaway that provided 5,000 people with fresh produce, milk, meat and non-perishable goods. A partnership between the non-profits Power of One Foundation and the Orange County Food Bank.

Boxes and bags filled with groceries were given away to a line of cars that stretched for 10 miles by some accounts.

“Everybody’s been lining up since 5 o’clock this morning, so the turnout is absolutely, really incredible,” said Andre Roberson, executive director of the Power of One Foundation, which has been doing food distributions to low income families and the homeless for over 15 years.

SAC has also hosted two drive-thru Emergency Food Assistance (EFA) Program distribution events for SAC students. At an event held on June 10th, Dons’ Corner Drive-Thru Food Distribution partnered with Power of One Foundation, provided a food for students and their families during a campus wide effort that included 45 student, faculty, and staff volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the event successful.

Santiago Canyon College: Drive-Thru Food Pantry Serves SCC Students

Dr. John Hernandez, President of Santiago Canyon College, served along-side SCC Hawk’s Nest Food Pantry volunteers to bring food and basic necessities to SCC students and their families at one of the many drive-thru food pantry distributions they have held over the last couple months. SCC continues to hold these events as groceries become available.