A new effort between young people in Everett, Mayor Carlo DeMaria and Supt. Priya Tahiliani is pointed at stressing the message to young people in Everett of staying home to keep others healthy – and no one brought home the message as strongly as one student, whose father is fighting the virus right now.
Facing a problem of young people and young adults congregating in the parks and in public spaces – hanging out and playing ball – despite the advisories to social distance and stay home, City and school officials reached out to young people two weeks ago for help. Choosing an array of leaders from the community, Mayor Carlo DeMaria deputized Everett High Senior Class President Ashley Yebba to get the message out. Using social media, specifically Tik Tok, they produced a video last week with the hashtag call to “#StayHomeEverett.”
While many young people appeared in the video for a variety of reasons, few were as poignant as Lorena Corbelli – who said she stays home for her father who is battling COVID-19 in the hospital right now.
“My dad tested positive for the Coronavirus two weeks ago,” she said. “We never really thought the virus would closely affect us – right in our immediate family. So, I joined the effort for him and I’m staying home so none of us gets the virus and none of us are exposed to it so when my dad comes home, he will be coming home to a healthy home free of any sickness.”
Corbelli got involved when her volleyball coach asked if she and a friend would be the representatives in the video for the team. It was a message she thought was very important and she hopes that other young people will understand how the virus can spread fast and into their own families.
“After we released the video and even before, I saw younger kids and even kids in my grade still going out and hanging out and going around in large groups,” she said. I knew that this could help and let them know the dangers of being in public in large groups. I thought explaining my situation and how the virus particularly affected me would show the virus is serious and can affect their families too. I thought by telling my story, they would really start taking it seriously.”
Corbelli, 18, and a member of National Honor Society and the Italian Honor Society president, is one of a dozen students that appeared on the video. Some were seniors who were headed towards graduation, and others were underclassmen who wanted to be able to return in the fall for football or soccer.
Having those diverse voices was important to the mayor, who made the unique effort of reaching out to them on Zoom for a first meeting in late March. That has led to a weekly online gathering, which has been important to help shape the City’s responses to COVID-19.
“It was important for me to reach out to the leaders of the school because their voices matter,” said the mayor, who appears on the video with his wife, Stacy. “While I’ve been urging students and Everett residents to stay home I wanted them to hear it from their peers, their sons and daughters. That way, it resonates more and encourages people to stay home as we try to mitigate the spread of the virus.”
The same was true for Supt. Tahiliani, who has participated in the Zoom meetings every week and also did a cameo on the video.
“I think the video was a great collaboration between the students, City Hall and the School Department,” she said. “It was led by the students. They are more tech savvy and they choreographed it and organized it. Many of them have expressed they are concerned about the people hanging out still, maybe in a car close together or at the park or playing ball. They want to get back to school sooner than later and want to encourage other young people to practice social distancing and stay home.”
Ismael Zamor, a 16-year-old sophomore, said he didn’t realize how serious the virus was at first until he realized it could affect his family members and potentially jeopardize his junior football season. The talented wide receiver has a big season coming up, and he said he stays home for his family and football.
“I’m staying home for my two younger brothers and my parents,” he said. “I want them to stay safe and I want to keep them safe. Second, I have a big football season coming up in the fall. I want to get this over with so we can have our season.
“At first, I didn’t think the virus was that serious,” he continued. “When I saw the numbers go up and up, and a friend of mine told me how it was spreading throughout Everett. I realized I could be out with my friends and we’re fine, but we don’t know if they’ve been exposed and they expose us to it. My parents are still working so they need to be protected. If everyone stays home, we can stop the spread.”
He said he is really looking forward to avenging a football loss to Central Catholic this coming fall, as well as making a big impact for recruiting purposes. To lose out on those two major goals would be crushing, he said.
Jason Portillo, a senior, said he had been going out regularly to work out and exercise in preparation for playing college football at Stone Hill College. He said he got a wake-up call when he learned that he could be affecting the health of his little sister, Brianna, and his mother.
“I go next year to play football at Stone Hill and I wanted to be ready, but my sister’s health and my mother’s health was more important to me,” he said. “I feel like playing football is something that doesn’t last forever. I have another four years of it. I love it, but my family’s health is more valuable. My sister is on the younger side, she’s 4, and I don’t want to bring something home to her.”
He said he really enjoyed the video and hopes that it does make a difference as this message spreads across Everett on social media and word of mouth.
“There are people who don’t need to be out and still choose to go out and aren’t thinking about the virus at all,” he said. “I think the video helps a lot, but still more needs to be done to let these people know the Coronavirus is spreading more and more in Everett.”
The video can be seen at www.everettindependent.com or on Twitter @EverettIndy.