Here is a positive story that illustrates what is wonderful in our country during a very dark time. There are people creating good in the world, and we know how desperately we need to celebrate the good. One of them is school nurse Michele Russo, from Warwick, Rhode Island. Michele is new to her school community. In the midst of her first year as their school nurse, she was faced with the sudden closure of the school, just as she was building relationships with her students and staff. Since everyone loves a parade, Michele spearheaded one that employed physical distancing but promoted social connectedness. I hope you enjoy her amazing story!
COVID-19 has struck communities throughout the world. It is no surprise as to how many people have been affected by this ongoing pandemic. It has brought our nation great sadness, heartache, and despair. It is a tragedy in which I have never quite experienced. Malls are closed. Restaurants are closed. Retailers are closed. What brings us the most heartache is that of schools. Schools throughout the nation are closed and we are all suffering with not only the added workload it brings upon both teachers and parents to provide concise and detailed virtual learning, but also the added mental and emotional piece of losing those one on one interactions. Teachers and students are missing one another more than ever. We see one another for 180 days a year for 6.5 hours each of those days. We are situated in four walls of a classroom, an office, a cafeteria or even a library throughout those hours. We are able to have connections with one another on not only an educational level but also on a social and emotional level. These past few weeks have been challenging for the Greenwood community, and those who attend and are employed at Greenwood Elementary School in Warwick, Rhode Island. We are missing our students. We are missing our colleagues. We are missing the normalcy of everyday life, despite the chaos it sometimes brings.
My name is Michele Russo and I work as the School Nurse Teacher at Greenwood Elementary. I, like so many, am struggling with what is happening in the world. Although I have worked as a School Nurse Teacher in the Warwick School Department for approximately 4 years now, I have only been employed at Greenwood Elementary for a little over a year. This past year or so has been quite a remarkable one for me. I have made many new friends and have experienced a tremendous amount of personal growth during the start of my career at Greenwood. It has been a year filled with many blessings and new and exciting opportunities. An opportunity that recently arose was one of a Greenwood team effort. I recently collaborated with my colleagues with the hope to brighten our community by organizing a “socially-distancing-experience.”
On Monday, March 23rd, I sent an email out to all parents and guardians of students at Greenwood School and requested that they bring their child to the school’s neighborhood for a faculty drive through parade set to happen on Tuesday, March 24th. Families who lived in the neighborhood were asked to either remain on their own lawns or inside their homes, keeping in mind the social distancing rules. For those who did not live in the neighborhood, the request was made for them to remain in their cars so that they could still witness our parade, all while keeping a safe distance from others. Teachers gathered in a CVS parking lot approximately 30 minutes before the parade to decorate their vehicles with homemade signs, balloons and even streamers made out of old vinyl tablecloths. We remained distant from one another and used whatever we had on hand to make our decorations to the best of our abilities. We had approximately 17 faculty members participate in the parade.
We were shocked to turn the corner at the start of the parade and see NBC10 news filming us as we honked our car horns loudly and yelled hello to our cherished students and their families. I think I can speak for many when I say the tears were endlessly flowing. Tears of sadness; tears of grief; tears of joy; tears of Greenwood pride. It was an experience filled with incredible amounts of emotion. Emotions that ranged from happiness to heartache, as we watched our children and their families smile ear to ear. Students eagerly waved their handmade posters for us all to see and moms and dads were seen holding their children tightly, many fighting back tears. You see, Greenwood School is like no other. The families that are a part of this school are like no other. The faculty and staff that make up this school are like no other. It may sound cliche, but we are truly family. Our school consists of some of the most wonderful, kind-hearted and generous students, families and faculty and staff. We are incredibly lucky.
The parade was a huge success, as the faculty and staff lit up the neighborhood with a spark of joy that had been missing over these last several weeks. I am so proud to be a part of this school and a part of this community. I am so proud to call the faculty and staff at Greenwood Elementary both my colleagues and friends. I am so proud to be able to call myself the School Nurse Teacher at Greenwood Elementary. We all need to find something to be grateful for during these upsetting times and I can say without uncertainty that I am beyond grateful for the amazing students and the incredible families of Greenwood Elementary. The faculty and staff may have brightened their day on March 24th, but they continue to brighten ours all 180 days. We miss them all so much. To all, please stay well, stay safe and stay healthy.
Here is the letter that was sent to all of the parents:
Come one, come all……from the Greenwood School…
many faculty and staff will be sending some cool….
Through the windows of our cars, we’ll be sending good cheer, to bring our kiddos some love from lawns if you dare….
Seat your children in the yard, so that we can send our love from both near and afar.
We will smile with a wave and a beep from the street, while we hope to see your children dancing feet.
We miss them so and we hope you know we will always cheer for all Greenwood kiddos.
No fret to those who don’t live in the hood, we will continue to share our love to the good.
Please park the car on the street near the school and you’ll be sure to see your teacher sharing their cool.
Simply keep your window down to a low, so that good social distancing is still being a show.
We will wave and beep loud to spread cheer and make you proud, however, this is all hard and we hope that you know that we love you all and want to give you a great show!
We love and miss you all so much!
-Greenwood Faculty and Staff-
Many Greenwood faculty and staff will be driving through the Greenwood neighborhood to send their love and good cheer at 2 pm tomorrow 3/24. If you live in the neighborhood, please have your child out front on the lawn. If you do not live in the neighborhood, please park your car on any street of the Greenwood neighborhood and have your child seated with their windows down low and we will give them a wave and send them lots of love. We miss you all so very much. We are so proud of all of your hard work!
Bio: My name is Michele Russo and I have been a Registered Nurse since June 2009. Although I spent a brief amount of time working as an RN in a nursing home facility, the majority of my nursing career has been spent working at Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. It is there where I worked with both children and adults struggling with psychiatric and substance abuse-related disorders. I began working at Butler Hospital in the summer of 2008 where I first started as a Mental Health Worker. After having graduated from nursing school the following summer, I was offered a part-time nursing position. Initially, leary to accept, I ended up diving face first and developed a love for psychiatric nursing…a field in which I never would have imagined having such enthrallment. Within a year and a half of accepting that position, I became married and shortly afterward became pregnant with our little honeymoon souvenir. After the birth of our daughter, I worked on a per diem basis for an approximate year and a half until transitioning to the role of a Clinical Assistant Nurse Manager for an adult psychiatric unit. I worked in that role, as well as the role of a Nursing Supervisor for approximately 3 more years before making the decision to change my career. Although I had indeed loved that job and the friends I had made along the way, deep in my heart I knew something was missing. I had spent many long evenings away from my family and struggled with the question of whether or not I was making a true difference in the lives of those who I had encountered. In November 2016 I made the difficult decision to leave my job as a Clinical Assistant Nurse Manager at Butler Hospital. Having worked at Butler Hospital for many years, this decision was both difficult and heart wrenching for me. I took a very big leap of faith and trusted that following my heart was more important than staying in a role that no longer provided me with the gratification I had been seeking. Although I still remain employed as a per-diem Nursing Supervisor, I have chosen to focus my nursing career on school nursing more so than that of hospital administration. While making this decision was not necessarily easy, it has indeed been both gratifying and fulfilling. Being a part of a school system has allowed me the opportunity to advance my skills and my love for health promotion in a different aspect. Being a mother to two young children and a wife to a teacher, all while furthering my education to get to the place that I am at now, has been anything but easy. It has been quite challenging and quite possibly one of the hardest obstacles I have yet to face. I will say with confidence that the joy school nursing has brought to my life thus far has made this difficult journey all worth the while.