When Williston student Frannie Cataldo ’22 and his friend, Longmeadow High School junior Adam Low, watched older adult family members struggle to make appointments to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines, they developed a plan to help.
Creating the organization Juniors Helping Seniors, they distributed fliers to local grocery stores and pharmacies to get the word out, and received more interest after a news story ran on a local television station, prompting a Wall Street Journal reporter to interview them for a story on youth volunteers helping schedule appointments.
With their list of qualified residents in hand, Frannie created a bot to check for vaccine appointments at local venues, useing that information to help schedule appointments.
“We felt this was important because seniors, especially over the age of 75, were unable to get the vaccines they needed because of the trouble navigating the Internet,” Frannie said. Several people they helped did not have Internet access or an email address, he added. Many were just not comfortable using technology.
That wasn’t a problem for these digital natives, who discovered they enjoyed talking with the elders who used their services. “One of the women I talked to was 99 years old and was very thankful for the help,” Frannie said.
Frannie plans a career in computer science, and he saw this project as a way to guide his work as he develops as a programmer. “Technology can either help people or be an obstacle,” he said. “This experience will help me be more cognizant when designing technical systems in the future.”