Foundation in Focus: New Albany students lead in extraordinary ways

KEITH R. BEREND
Keith R. Berend

In challenging times, leadership sometimes reveals itself in perhaps unexpected places.

Over the past few months, we have witnessed extraordinary current and graduated New Albany students stepping into leadership roles.

With 2015 New Albany graduate Xzavier Brandon, the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests compelled him to organize demonstrations in New Albany calling for social justice and racial equality.

Xzavier is well known to many New Albany residents. He was successful in school both academically and athletically.

When the foundation hosted historian Doris Kearns Goodwin years ago for a student lecture, Xzavier introduced her to the 900 students representing central Ohio schools.

Similarly, when the pandemic reached central Ohio and hospitals prepared for a potential influx of patients, New Albany's robotics teams began searching for ways to help our local community. They learned there was a shortage of personal protective equipment across Ohio.

The Antidote and Digital Eagles robotics teams created face shields in collaboration with Form 5 Prosthetics, a nonprofit organization founded by New Albany graduate Aaron Westbrook. Form5 also began making PPE equipment for local health-care workers.

The Antidote robotics team received a call from a physician in Georgia who had requested a device that could alleviate ear pain from wearing surgical masks for prolonged periods of time.

The students quickly designed and produced their own model of a mask-strain reliever. And as an expression of appreciation to the health-care professionals, the students embossed "REAL HERO" on the pieces.

To date, they have mailed 23,000 mask-strain relievers to more than 35 states. More recently, they began making PPE for New Albany-Plain Local Schools and the Plain Township Fire Department.

They created two mask-strain relievers each for all students and staff across every school building, nearly 12,000 relievers in total.

They created New Albany-customized relievers featuring the 'E+R=O' (Event+Response = Outcome) lettering, as well as two-toned coloring with the school colors.

There are many stories of extraordinary people in our community doing wonderful things to help their neighbors and help build a stronger community. We are grateful to all of them.

We also are appreciative of the many New Albany families, businesses and organizations who have contributed to the foundation's COVID-19 assistance fund.

Together, we'll get through this difficult time.

Keith R. Berend, M.D., is Senior Partner at JIS Orthopedics, CEO of White Fence Surgical Suites, member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees and former board chair.