‘Students Combat Corona’ : How New York Teens are Helping Small Businesses During the Coronavirus Pandemic


Theodore Wai

“I joined SCC because the idea of students helping out their community was really appealing to me,” said Kyle Pinzon, Director of Partnerships. “It’s easy to feel powerless when you’re stuck at home, especially as a student, so SCC was a great way for me to help out.”

What do you think of when you envision people fighting against COVID-19 outside of healthcare?  Do you think of workers helping to distribute food to those who critically need it?  How about the average person, wearing PPE and maintaining the practice of social distancing?  Perhaps COVID-19 patients donating plasma, a key factor in saving lives?  The truth is, each and every person who is fighting COVID-19 is essential to the fight, and every action is of monumental importance.  But would the same apply to a group of teens on Zoom?  

Small businesses have been among the hardest hit entities due to the Coronavirus pandemic.  Forty-three percent of small businesses say they will be forced to close due to COVID-19.  Over 100,000 small businesses across America have already closed.  Enter StudentsCombatCorona (SCC)Students Combat Corona was founded by Caroline Zhu ’22, who attends Syosset High School, in March 2020, for a single purpose: to help small businesses as they struggle as a result of the pandemic’s economic downturn.  “I was frustrated at how we students were stuck at home, individually able to do nothing of impact as our government descended into panicked policy-making,” said Zhu.  “When I voiced these feelings out to other students, I quickly found out that I wasn’t alone – far from it, actually. SCC started as a community of high schoolers who empathized with each other in their frustrations, and wanted to collectively channel them into helping our community.”  Zhu’s vision is what brings students to join SCC, the idea that youth, even separated, can make a difference for our local communities and bring out the best of people in a period of uncertainty and outrage.  In the words of Vice President Ashrita Gudavelli ’21, “I believe that with a great foundation and group of individuals who are dedicated to SCC and its mission, we will be able to achieve more, and I wanted to be a part of that greatness.”

Caroline Zhu, founder and President of SCC, founded SCC on the belief that students could join together to fight against COVID-19. “Young people will shape the future,” she believes. (Theodore Wai)

SCC has grown remarkably over the past month.  What started out as a loose collective of high school students has grown into a full-fledged organization with a Board of Directors, weekly team meetings, and fundraising events.  Thus far, SCC has amassed a dedicated band of members and has raised almost two thousand dollars.  What has been behind SCC’s success?  Its members are driven.  They are passionate about their communities and the issues surrounding them.  “New York City, which I’m proud to call home, is one of the most diverse locations in the world; however, with this current pandemic, xenophobia and bigotry are often seen, and Asians are consistently victimized,” said Wena Teng ’21, Director of Public Relations.  “Through SCC, I wanted to not only help the businesses in my community, but also highlight these issues.”

At the center of SCC’s growth is a highly committed, and thriving team of Board of Directors.  The Board of Directors spearhead SCC’s efforts, putting in countless hours to ensure SCC’s mission will be fulfilled and the funds start flowing.  When asked about why she joined the Board of Directors, Teng said, “I joined the SCC Board of Directors because I genuinely believed in the goals of SCC and the potential that it had. I wanted to contribute the most that I can, and becoming the Director of Public Relations would allow me to do so!”  Teng’s efforts into PR have helped SCC to establish its online presence, which is vital to its outreach process.  Likewise, Kyle Pinzon ’21 from Herricks High School sees his experience in SCC’s Board of Directors as a rewarding one.  “As Director of Partnerships, I do a lot of work with reaching out to other organizations and local businesses themselves,” said Pinzon.  “I find that really rewarding, because I get to see the effects of our efforts first-hand.”

Vice President Ashrita Gudavelli sees SCC as a path to success and greatness. “I joined the Board of Directors because I believe that with a great foundation and group of individuals who are dedicated to SCC and its mission, we will be able to achieve more, and I wanted to be a part of that greatness.” she said.

SCC has begun to expand rapidly, and it utilizes creative outreach methods to reach more people, especially students. From hosting a Virtual Bingo Night, creating tutoring initiatives and individual members creating personal initiatives to further the cause, SCC’s future seems to not only focus on aiding small businesses throughout this period of crisis, but leading the way for student-led initiatives that protect the interests of local communities and the well-being of those essential to our lives.  “We will be very soon making large donations to our local businesses that is sure to cover their rent and salaries for at least a month or two, and we are uplifting our neighborhoods in a grassroots effort to thank our delivery workers,” saids Zhu.  “The impact of people getting together and putting their minds is astounding – no matter their age.”

Wena Teng, Director of Public Relations, recounts one of her favorite memories of SCC. “The most memorable experience that I’ve had thus far in SCC is the sense of community we had established from the very beginning!” she said. “We raised over 500 dollars in less than a day, and I loved how everyone was so eager in helping one another out!”


















“I believe that with a great foundation and group of individuals who are dedicated to SCC and its mission, we will be able to achieve more, and I wanted to be a part of that greatness,” said Vice President of SCC Ashrita Gudavelli ’21.