SU Student Creates Masks to Give Back to Community as COVID-19 Surges SU Student Creates Masks to Give Back to Community as COVID-19 Surges

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Onondaga County is now facing one of its biggest challenges of the pandemic as rates of COVID-19 continue to surge in the community.

Sofia Rossi is a Syracuse University junior whose passion for civic engagement has led her to take great efforts to get involved in combating the spread.

Part of this action included starting her own small business over the summer, People Made Masks, to simultaneously combat the virus and provide resources to local organizations.

“I saw that there was really a great need for further protection and further support – financial support – for services in Syracuse that I wish I could donate great amounts to,” Rossi said.

To make her wish a reality, she began cutting, sewing and selling her own face masks to SU students. 

“I thought it would be the best idea to sell masks up in Syracuse with the student body,” she said. “And to use those finances to give them to nonprofits in the Syracuse area so they could use those funds for whatever they needed.”

She even employed the help of both her mother and sister when she was home in Westchester, New York for the summer.

“When Sofia was still home, it was like a little assembly line,” her sister, Julia Rossi, said.

Now, back at school, Rossi is deeply involved in the Syracuse community. With a double-major in citizenship and civic engagement and policy studies, volunteering and being an active member of the citizenry is vital to her.

“I’ve seen my own community struggle, and I’ve been able to use my privilege being able to go to a higher education institution,” she said. “I’m a white-passing Latinx person. So using my own privilege in that facet.”

Right now, she is a court-appointed volunteer at Vera House, is interning at a local immigration law firm and is a long-time volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club.

She’s also currently in the search of new nonprofits to donate proceeds to, hoping to make her decision based around concerns of both diversity and the financial strain of the pandemic.

Rossi has noticed one area in particular that she’s hoping to assist local nonprofits in addressing: the lurch they are so often left in when students fulfill their required hours.

“This idea of being a marketable citizen, of getting as many things on your resume as possible, trying to do as much as possible, going into a nonprofit organization with a big plan of programming and ideas that are all really awesome and great,” she said. “But as soon as kids are done with their required service hours, they leave.”

“Those organizations are left not only deprived of another person who’s there to fill gaps,” Rossi said. “[They] are left with a huge program or plan or idea that these students wanted to implement but had no plan for sustainability.”

Despite her passion for the community and her attempts to see it safe and flourishing, even Rossi is now suspected positive of COVID-19 in the midst of this surge.

“Someone wasn’t feeling well, didn’t tell roommates, who those roommates saw somebody else and those people saw me,” she said. “You can still get sick even though you’re being safe. And that is a really hard thought to conceptualize.”

Rossi has come to accept her situation and is focused on holding herself and others accountable going forward.

“Things happen. And that’s not something we can control,” she said. “But we can control how we prevent further things from transpiring.”

“Global citizenship right now is just remembering to hold yourself accountable,” Rossi said.

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