Islander Faculty and Students Help Distribute First Round of COVID-19 Vaccines to South Texas community

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Students and faculty from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences recently joined the first team of volunteers at the Regional Mega COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic in Robstown, Texas. Making history by participating in the first large scale distribution event in the Coastal Bend, many students say the opportunity to volunteer equaled an opportunity to save a life and make a difference.

“There was a definite sense of hope and relief in the air at the clinic,” Susan Hornbeck, nursing major said. “For me it was an opportunity to serve others in my community and hopefully spread a smile or two. The professors and students have such a heart for the community, I was honored to have professors that lead by example and to be surrounded by students that truly care.”

Welcoming only select recipients as part of Phases 1A and 1B of the rollout, CONHS faculty and students assisted in the distribution of more than 9,000 vaccinations. Recipients traveled from surrounding counties including Aransas, Bee, Brooks, Duval, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kleberg, Live Oak, McMullen, Nueces, Refugio, and San Patricio. Volunteers served from sunrise to sundown greeting and serving patients, many having anxiously waited in their vehicle for more than five hours in anticipation of the vaccine.

“I was part of the day one crew.  We saw the miles of cars lined up and heard stories of people who had been in their cars since two o’clock in the morning waiting in line for their chance,” Elizabeth Seabolt, nursing major said. “There were so many tears and thank-yous, and in that moment, I really felt like I made this experience a little easier for someone.”

CONHS students say they will continue to volunteer as long as they’re needed – striving to bring help and hope to every patient in need.

“We’re being trained to get out there and help – we’re the next crop of nurses and for many of us, this is our potential client population,” Seabolt said. “Vaccines probably seem minimal for some, but this is a huge public health opportunity that many nurses may not ever have. These are unprecedented times and I know we’re aching to be able to get out and help however we can. This was a really fantastic opportunity to learn and act.”

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales credited CONHS students and staff for the valiant efforts in assisting with the vaccine distribution.

“Nearly everyone in the medical profession cites ‘the chance to make a difference’ as one of the main reasons they choose it as a career,” Canales said. “Here at our COVID-19 Mega Clinic, TAMU-CC students are making a huge difference, getting important clinical experience, and delivering life-protecting vaccines to our most vulnerable neighbors. These students are a vital part of our operation.”

Reflecting on the outpour of enthusiasm from students to volunteer Dr. Bunny Forgione, Interim-Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, says her students were eager and committed to making their Islander impact.  

“I am so very proud of our faculty and students,” Forgione said. “When I put out the call we had 31 volunteers within hours, and each call after that was answered with the same enthusiasm. They were all so committed to serve the community.”