SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The City of Springfield is putting together a new team to help bring down COVID-19 case numbers among the city’s youth.
Three young adults have been chosen by the Department of Health and Human Services to serve on the COVID-19 Youth Council. They will operate as a subcommittee of the city’s Vax Force and will focus on providing information and education on the COVID-19 vaccine to their peers, ages 35 and under.
Jason is a graduate of Worcester State University with a dual bachelor’s in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Originally from Springfield, Jason enjoys basketball and teaching the youth in the community financial literacy.
Teka is a longtime community activist, philanthropist, and Executive Director of Strong Young Minds Youth Development Organization. Her annual children’s fashion show, I Am Me, has become a bright light in the Springfield Community. In 2021, Teka joined the Stone Soul planning committee.
Kassandra Jean-Marie is a second-year student at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she received a dual degree in Microbiology and Public Health. As part of her dedication to improving the health of others, she has worked as a research assistant for the National Institute of Health-funded “Food, Activity, Screens, and Teens” study. This research project allowed her to work with disadvantaged adolescents in Springfield. She is currently working with the Springfield Department of Health and Human Services on vaccination efforts and racial equity and justice as part of her community assistantship.
Last week, there were 499 reported COVID-19 cases in the city. More than half of those were in people younger than 30 years old. Vaccination rates among that age group are the worst of any. Only 44% of 20-somethings in Springfield are vaccinated along with 42% of teenagers.
Mayor Sarno states, “I want to thank these three young and bright individuals for agreeing to serve on our COVID-19 Youth Council. These three individuals are an excellent choice and will greatly assist our renowned Vax Force in providing outreach initiatives to our younger populations and remind them that even though they may feel healthy, this COVID-19 Coronavirus and its Delta variant poses a risk, maybe not to them but possible to their loved ones. The vaccine is safe and effective and can greatly reduce the adverse health conditions one might experience if not vaccinated. As Dr. Mark Keroack, President and CEO of Baystate Health, mentioned last week, our hospitals are seeing a significant increase in unvaccinated individuals needing to be hospitalized. This puts a strain on our hospital systems and the services they provide – this is truly becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The Vax Force, Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris and I are looking forward to working with Jason, Teka and Kassandra and reaching out to our younger population about the importance of getting vaccinated.”
HHS Commissioner Caulton-Harris stated, “The Department of Health and Human Services and the Vax Force appreciates Jason Feliciano, Teka Jones and Kassandra Jean-Marie for agreeing to serve on our COVID-19 Youth Council. All three are smart and have been involved in our community. Quite frankly, they all have a bright future, and we are fortunate to have them joining our COVID-19 Youth Council. Working in hand with the Vax Force, they will be tasked to identify six other youths to work with by providing outreach efforts and initiatives specifically focused on reaching our under 35 population. It is paramount that we provide the same level of outreach and education to our student and younger populations that our Vax Force did for our residents, churches, and business community. Again, the COVID-19 Youth Council will work with our dedicated Vax Force and City team to continue to provide correct and factual information and help dispel myths and misinformation on the vaccine.”