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While young people are less likely to suffer the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, it is their responsibility to protect vulnerable, immunocompromised communities. And that’s precisely what Presentation High School student Mitthra Senthil is trying to do. After the transition to distance learning, it would have been easy for Mitthra to focus on the onslaught of AP exams, finals, and projects that are typical of any high school workload. Instead, she directed her passion for STEM towards addressing the current deficiency in medical supplies. 

The coronavirus outbreak has threatened the resources, staffing, and support available to medical facilities all over the Bay Area. To date, there have been 2,120 confirmed cases in our community — a number that can only be the lowest possible estimate. According to the Los Angeles Times, healthcare and sanitation workers are being forced to reuse N95 masks, thus endangering the lives of the individuals trying to protect ours. Although Gov. Newsom recently announced a large purchase of masks for the state of California, the reuse of medical gear runs rampant in some of the area’s largest facilities. And healthcare workers are not the only ones in desperate need of masks. Shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks in California struggle to accommodate the growing population of homeless individuals vulnerable to the virus. 

It is amid this environment that Mitthra Senthil used her STEM and sewing skills to make masks of her own. “The idea came to fruition when Mitthra’s mother was at a grocery store and a few of the workers and customers asked where they could buy their own masks because they didn’t have access to reusable masks to wear – especially when working. So, with her grandmother (who taught her how to sew), Mitthra contacted family friends at hospitals and had them send an approved template/design that would be effective for all users”, says a representative from Presentation High School. 

With the help of her family, Mitthra has distributed 100 cloth masks to local hospitals, and more than 150 to homeless shelters and the general public. Even better, these masks are available to all communities. “The cost of the masks ($3) is put directly toward the purchasing of supplies.” Although the future of the pandemic is nebulous, it is heartening to know that young people are using the wealth of resources and knowledge available to them to bring out the best in our humanity. Mitthra continues to make masks for the Bay Area. To request masks, you can email mitthrasenthil@gmail.com or place an order on her website. 

Kanchan Naik is a junior at the Quarry Lane School in Dublin, California. Aside from being the Youth Editor at India Currents, she is also the Editor-In-Chief of her school newspaper The Roar and the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton.

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