INDIAN HILL, Ohio — The importance of human connection is one lesson the coronavirus pandemic has taught all who have experienced it. One high school student who felt the loneliness of isolation during the stay-at-home order decided to do something for others in similar situations.
Indian Hill High School junior Sophie Chabris was feeling the effects of last March’s quarantine.
“Kind of one thing taken from me with stay at home – I felt socially isolated and distanced from my friends,” she said. “Corona reminded us how important connection was.”
She said she knew she had to do something to make connection possible for kids who didn’t return to class as she did, including classmate Leonardo Gates. His parents made the tough choice of safety over socializing during the ongoing pandemic.
“(We) have a family that’s high risk, (and we) worry about that,” Leonardo’s mother, Jessica Gates, said. “We’ve already lost a family member to COVID in Italy.”
At the same time, Gates worried her 8-year-old might suffer from being alone, until she heard of the Corona Care Callers.
“When I saw they had this program, I went, ‘Yes,’ because it gave him what he needed,” she said.
A new buddy for Leonardo in these pandemic times: Enter Nina Overton.
“The first moment we started talking, it was instant,” Overton said. “’Love this kid,’ I texted Sophie – ‘OMG, I have Leo and he’s awesome.’”
Matches like that are the fulfillment of a mission – to pair Indian Hill High Schoolers with younger kids in the district who are learning virtually from home, away from their classmates. It was Chabris’ bright idea, a kind of medicine for COVID isolation.
“It’s such a godsend to have this for my children,” Gates said.
The weekly Zoom conversations give her kids something to look forward to. Recently, Leo and Nina have discussed the Percy Jackson book series.
“I think it’s helped me more than it’s helped him,” Overton said.
It's a continuing lesson in the importance of human connection.
“Even if I had the ittiest, bittiest part, it makes me feel happy I could help anyone,” Chabris said.
They think the Corona Care Callers program will outlast the pandemic in a mentoring, big brother-big sister, kind of way.
Chabris said she’s gotten calls from leaders at no less than seven other schools hoping to bring her idea to their own students.