During the summer months of 2020, nursing student, Tami Scruggs, received news that the classes she signed up for at Niagara County Community College were going remote because of the continued threat of COVID-19. Tammy revealed, “I am a bit older than the traditional college student so, when the nursing program went online, I was not excited. It’s difficult for me to be behind a computer and not in a classroom. I have to be more creative in the way I learn and study.”
Coincidentally, at the beginning of the pandemic, Tami began a new painting journey to deal with the stresses of the world’s new normal. “My daughter and I had found a painted rock while on a walk. We thought painting rocks would be a good hobby while everything was shut down. It was a way to relax, clear our minds, and cope with the changes that were happening so quickly around us,” Tami explains.
During the fall 2020 semester, Tami applied her new hobby to the way she studied for exams in the competitive nursing program. She began painting cardiac rhythms in order to remember them. “Painting on rocks helped me to not only memorize certain EKG strips, but it also helped me to relax. Usually, there is nothing relaxing about nursing school,” jokes Tami.
Tami is now a part of the rock painting community, Sweet Buffalo Rocks, in Western New York. Tami joined the Facebook group and became a part of the trend spreading across the country of painting, hiding, and finding others’ rock creations. She is now an active contributor to an act that spreads joy, wonder, and a family-friendly treasure hunt at any given moment. She says “I like to leave my rocks near walking trails, bike paths, or public rock gardens for people to find. Sometimes a silly rock really brightens someone’s day.”
In addition to painting rocks to de-stress, study, and make people smile, Tami is also painting them to teach. During the summer of 2020, Tami’s husband, Jeff, was diagnosed with Lyme disease. To help prevent the illness in others, Tami took her message to the woods, leaving rocks with ticks painted on them, reminding hikers to do a tick check, and including a fact about Lyme disease.
While the world awaits a safe COVID-19 vaccine, Tami continues to find the silver linings while living and studying through the pandemic. “You really build some amazing friendships in the nursing program and we all miss each other.” However, “Online learning does allow for more flexibility in my schedule,” said Tami.
To stay connected and supported, the NCCC faculty have carved extra time into their schedules to connect with students in new and resourceful ways. Whether it is through one-on-one check-ins, lecturing outdoors while the weather cooperates, or moving classes to larger spaces like the campus’ banquet hall, faculty and staff are striving to meet students’ needs. Tami says she feels supported because “The nursing staff has open office hours via Zoom or we can send emails if we have any questions or concerns that need to be verified.”