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UNC Nursing Students Provide Care to Those in Need in Weld County

October 27, 2021

For months, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of health care, but not everyone can easily access it. This time, more than ever, has served as a reminder of how important it is to give back to those in need throughout the community, and the University of Northern Colorado’s nursing students are doing just that. 

On Friday, Oct. 15, 30 UNC nursing students and two faculty members volunteered in the 11th annual Weld Project Connect event, hosted by United Way of Weld County. As described on their website, this event is hosted one day each year and provides free, on-site services directly to people struggling due to housing instability, health issues, job insecurity or other issues. The event provides a wide variety of services: from medical services, such as immunizations and health screenings, to human care services, such as assistance with writing a resume, food stamp enrollment and more.  

Organizations from across Weld County come together each year for this event, which helps an average of more than 1,000 Weld County residents annually. UNC has contributed to the event since its inception in 2011.  

Deborah Rojas

“The nursing students measure blood pressures, height, weight and body mass index,” Assistant Professor Deborah Rojas from UNC’s School of Nursing said. “Our students also support the foot-washing stations, so there’s a variety of things they do throughout the event."

To Rojas, this event is about more than just providing health care, though. It’s about fostering real, human connections with those who attend. 

“The big piece is listening to them and talking to them and validating them without judgement, because many of the people that come to Project Connect are struggling due to housing instability. So, for the students to just sit and hear their story, is one of the most valuable things about it,” Rojas said.

According to Rojas, she has between 30 to 40 nursing students who volunteer every year, eager to participate in the event. “This particular event is not required because it’s not during their class time, but still at least half the class attends and that’s the best part. At the end of the day, and it’s a long day, they were all saying, ‘When is the next one? When can we do it again?’” Rojas said. 

The students enjoy having the opportunity to help others in the same way they hope to do in their future careers as nurses. 

“They love it. They love attending events like this,” Rojas continued. “They get so excited because they’re like, ‘this person called me a nurse.’ They start to envision themselves as a healthcare professional and so it’s really powerful for them to put on that persona and see what it feels like.”

Rojas says the experience is invaluable. The volunteer opportunity allows students to take the things they have learned in class and apply them to make a real-world difference. 

“In our School of Nursing, our students are exceptional. They’re bright. They’re caring. They want to make a difference, that’s what drives them, and there are real problems and needs in the community that they can help with,” Rojas said. “The students get to do something real, with real people, and it just validates a lot of what they’re learning in their curriculum. I think they learn as much from this as they do from what I give them in the classroom. These are the things that they remember. These are the things that really have an impact on them.” UNC nursing students

Participation in this event also serves as an example of how UNC can give back to the community it is a part of, something Rojas believes goes beyond helping those in need. 

“I think it’s really important for all of UNC to have strong connections in the community -- to have a relationship where both sides are working together, this kind of collaboration benefits all parties,” Rojas said.  

- written by Alani Casiano, a junior English major at UNC


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