Photography by Jessica Turner. What started off as a class project for four Hockaday School seniors ended up in the hands of the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force.

Victoria Segal, Margot Phaneuf, Meg Dillon and Riya Malhotra (not pictured) teamed up in microbiology of public health. In class, which explores health and social impact across the world, students were tasked with a way to market the vaccine Dallas residents.

The class watched PBS’s RX as part of their curriculum. One episode told the story of “vaccination warriors,” community members who went by foot to vaccinate people door-to-door.

“It made an enormous impact.” Segal says. “Any small idea, no matter how trivial you think it may seem, can be something extremely powerful.”

The girls were thinking about this in January, when ice cream trucks are mostly unused. COVID vaccines need to be stored at cold temperatures. Why not employ ice-cream trucks to distribute vaccines?

Their project hypothesized that government entities could rent the trucks from local businesses, and health care workers could be driven into communities in South Dallas, where access to the vaccine was limited.

Several neighborhoods in South Dallas most vulnerable for COVID-related illness and death didn’t have a single vaccination site during the initial vaccine distribution in early 2021. The nearest vaccination sites were 8 miles away in a part of town where public transportation isn’t readily available.

“These are the people who really need the vaccine, because they have essential jobs,” Segal says.

Once the girls completed the project, Segal quietly submitted their proposal to the Belldegrun Center for Innovative Leadership’s Impact Challenge. After feedback from infectious disease specialists, their idea was selected to be presented to former Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald in March.

After McDonald watched their pitch and met with them, he passed their project on to the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force in April.

“My mom was so excited,” she says. “She was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you have to put this on your resume. It’s so cool.’”

They’re not sure what’s going to happen with the idea, but they say it was a valuable lesson in problem-solving skills and pitch presentation.

“It’s been such an interesting and enlightening experience to know that I can do something like that,” Dillon says.

To read more about our 2021 fierce females, click here


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