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Scholars Bria Bryant and Rebecca Zasloff volunteered at the Friday Center vaccine clinic.

Community Focus: Vaccine Volunteers

June 1, 2021

The UNC community has been active in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic, through research that leads to new treatments for the disease and through large-scale testing and vaccination efforts to protect the population. CSS scholars made their own contributions during the spring semester by volunteering at the Friday Center vaccination clinic, the largest vaccine clinic in the UNC Health system.

Bryan Obika (UNC ’20, CSS 4), a first-year student in the UNC School of Medicine, spent his spring semester serving as a vaccinator in order to gain valuable experience in a healthcare setting and make a difference in the community. “I saw an opportunity to be part of history by helping people get vaccinated against this deadly virus, and I eagerly jumped at the chance,” he said.

Bria Bryant and Rebecca Zasloff (both UNC ’22, CSS 6) also volunteered at the Friday Center, by greeting patients as they entered the clinic, handing out masks to those who needed one, escorting patients to the observation room after they received the vaccine, and helping to discharge them after their observation period. Zasloff also served as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients throughout the vaccination process.

“I was a volunteer shift lead, so it was my responsibility to make sure the shift ran smoothly by placing volunteers in their daily positions and working with the Friday Center team to ensure materials were stocked and distributed,” Bryant shared. “My favorite job was working with the MedHelp team to run vaccines from the pharmacy to the distribution room.”

All three scholars were moved to volunteer by a desire to give back to the Chapel Hill community. “This past year has been difficult for everyone in one way or another, and now that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved and distributed, it seems like this could be the light at the end of the tunnel,” Zasloff said. “I knew I wanted to be a part of this process in any way I could.”

CSS 6 scholar Kena Lemu received her vaccine from CSS alum Bryan Obika. Photo: Kena Lemu
“I loved volunteering here because even if it’s only for a minute, I can bring a little positivity and joy to these people and be a light in their day,” added Bryant. “I had to wake up early, and I was there multiple times a week, but it’s something that I loved doing.”

Aside from the public health benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible, another perk of volunteering at the Friday Center has been connecting with the community. For Bryant, who is an outgoing person, the lack of social interaction during the pandemic has been challenging. “The most enjoyable part of volunteering here has been the relationships that I’ve built with other volunteers from across the Triangle,” she said.

“Working as a vaccinator, I met a plethora of unique faces, and it’s always interesting getting to learn about other people,” said Obika. “One moment that made me happy was seeing a person cry tears of joy because they were so excited to finally be getting the vaccine and taking one step closer to normal life again.”

“It is so nice to see our Chapel Hill community come together in this way,” said Zasloff. “It just warms my heart.”

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