Engineering students step up to help others during coronavirus crisis
March 29, 2020 / by Nanci Hellmich
Mason Engineering students are using their innovative skills to solve more than engineering problems.
They are coming up with creative ways to do random acts of kindness, both big and small, during the coronavirus outbreak.
The students are friends who lived in the same residence hall at Mason. When classes became virtual after spring break, Receveur was at home with his parents in Hampton, Virginia, while Alshathri was on campus because he couldn’t get back to his home in Saudi Arabia.
Receveur asked his parents if Alshathri could come live with them for a while, and they agreed. Receveur returned to the Fairfax Campus to pick up Alsharthri.
When they’re not taking their classes online or studying, the two have been working out together, walking on the beach, and playing board games with the family.
“I taught him how to make Yankee cornbread and steaks,” says Receveur, an Honors College student. “He’s gardening with my mom (April), and my dad (Tim) is talking to him about the history of our area. My dad wrote a book about it. They talk all the time.”
Alshathri says he’s enjoying his time with the Receveur family. “Tough times make the best qualities of people shine,” he says. “The Receveurs have been caring and kind. They took me in during this period of uncertainty, and they are teaching me valuable life skills. I will have some vegetables that should be grown by the end of the semester, thanks to them.”
He’s also enjoying the family dog, Puzzles, and he enjoys playing with their dog when he is done with his work for the day.
Alshathri says the family living near the beach is a bonus. “You expect to be locked up during quarantine, but the beach is pretty empty, so we can go out and take walks.”
Other members of the Mason Engineering community are finding ways to show kindness to faculty, family, and others while still maintaining social distancing:
Reaching out virtually
Angelica Watson, a mechanical engineering senior, has been calling her grandmother every day to check on her. When her grandmother asked why she was calling so often, Watson said to remind her to stay home and be safe.
Watson also has been going to the grocery store to get supplies for her family. “Today when I went looking for some cleaning supplies, there was an older lady in the store who couldn’t reach the bleach on a higher shelf, so I passed her two bottles of it,” she says.
“I also saw a lady looking for toilet paper, and I gave her a pack of wipes that I had picked up. ... It’s the little things that warm people’s hearts.”
Paying it forward
When Arash Touhidi, a senior in electrical engineering, heard about a Mason alumna/friend who was struggling financially in part due to the coronavirus outbreak, he knew he wanted to help.
“Although it wasn’t much, I gave her the money from my recent paycheck from my work at the Bioinspired Robotics and Intelligent Control Lab so that she can get by,” he says.
“I live with my mom so I don’t have many bills, except for a car payment and insurance” he says.
“I’m still texting with my friend, and we’re offering each other moral support.”
Sending a word of thanks
Vineet Nair, a senior in mechanical engineering, sent emails to several faculty members and staff thanking them for going the extra mile to make online learning work.
“I can’t imagine how hard it was for them to prepare to do this in a week or so,” he says. “They are trying to give us our money’s worth and give us the tools we need when we graduate.
“I’ve had two or three classes, and there have been some challenges, but overall, it’s going very smoothly. I think what they are doing right now is tremendous.”
Lifting up others with humor
Ivory Sarceno, a senior in mechanical engineering, has been doing her best to stay in touch with her family in Guatemala and the United States while practicing social distancing.
Everyone is stressed out, and during this time laughter is still the best medicine, she says.
“I’ve started a family group chat with 11 members through WhatsApp where my family can share memes and uplifting stories, and most importantly our love and support for each other.”
Sharing safety insights
Jason Nembhard, a senior in systems engineering, says a friend of his became alarmed when someone in his building in Arlington was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Naturally, he was stressed about catching the virus,” Nembhard says.
“I reached out to him to talk about what he's going through and suggested ways he can keep himself safe. I was able to pass along the personal safety information I had learned from my mom, who is a nurse at INOVA Fairfax Hospital.”
“He told me thank you, and then he went to work cleaning and disinfecting his apartment,” Nembhard says.
Brightening a professor's day
When the statistics students in one of assistant professor Elizabeth Johnson’s classes found out that it was her birthday one day recently, they all started writing "Happy Birthday" in the Blackboard chat.
“It was unexpected, and it made my day,” she says.
If you’ve done some random acts of kindness for others and would like to share them, please email your story to Nanci Hellmich.
Stories from throughout the Mason community can be submitted here.