By Gabrielle Owens
Students may be feeling isolated or discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Youngstown State University’s upcoming organization, Voices Connect, created an outreach group to encourage students during times of uncertainty.
Chaste Chapman, founder of Voices Connect, said the group offers an outlet for students in need of advice and support during the semester.
“We’re just a bunch of students getting together to support each other through everything college related, because a lot of students come to college and they’re nervous and they’re scared. We wanted to make sure that they have a comfortable environment to continue to learn,” she said.
Chapman said she created the student-run group during the spring 2020 semester, as a project for her Masters of Science in education counseling at YSU.
“We’re not an organization yet, we are actually in the process of creating this to be an official organization,” she said. “So, my goal was to get that strong first, before we could decide on whether or not we wanted to make this an official organization.”
According to Chapman, the objective of Voices Connect is to challenge every student to value their own integrity, while also creating a safe place for them to freely express themselves.
Chapman and her executive team reach out to students by posting encouraging words and quotes around campus to spread positivity and awareness.
“We wanted students to know that they still matter and are being thought of, because a lot of students are having a hard time through this process. So, we just wanted to make sure that they’re not forgotten, especially our international students because they are so far away from home,” she said.
Malini Rajasekaran, a senior social work major, said she became an executive member of Voices Connect to make a positive impact at YSU.
“My position as an executive is to attend executive and general meetings. I also bring up new discussion topics for our meetings and create ideas on how we can best utilize our Instagram to get more students involved in our group,” she said.
Rajasekaran said the COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult to connect with students in-person.
“I would say my experience has been both enjoyable and frustrating due to the pandemic, but we have started doing general meetings over Webex and, so far, that has been working out quite well for us,” she said.
Gabrielle Chapman, a senior psychology major, said she recommends students attend their biweekly group meetings Mondays at 8:30 p.m.
“We need you as much as you need us, and we’re all going to get through this time together. Only if we lean and depend on each other, we’ll not only come out stronger, but more inspired,” she said.
Students interested in being a part of Voices Connect can visit their Instagram page @voices_connect or can email Chaste Chapman at firstname.lastname@example.org.