Faces of Resilience (part 4 of 4)


Jordan Cone

During these uncertain times, the Observer has teamed up with Farrah Roberts, director of student well-being and resiliency, to launch the Faces of Resilience project, which spotlights members of the Augustana community who have shown resilience during this challenging season. Students, faculty and staff were encouraged to nominate each other for finding ways to stay connected, for going above and beyond in distance learning or for bouncing back from adversity.  

We are pleased to present to you the final part of a four part series celebrating our community.



nominated by Semhal Berhe

“I would like to like to nominate Marry Ghenna for the Faces of Resilience Project. Marry has joined the Ethiopian COVID-19 Response Task Force team in Ethiopia. She felt disconnected and helpless so far away from her friends and family back home, so she decided to join this team virtually. Marry now works actively in different project work streams to deliver care packages in destitute communities, promote delivery packages, launch the Africa COVID-19 response tool kit and so much more. Marry had used her skills and leadership abilities in an impressive way to find purpose and help her community at the same time.” – Berhe

Ghenna says the three different work streams through the Ethio COVID-19 Response Task Force (ECRT) she’s involved with are:

– “Project Delivery” where clothes and sanitary materials are organized and given to quarantine centers, care packages – including groceries and sanitary materials – are put together and delivery services for restaurant’s groceries and other essentials are promoted.

– The “Civic Engagement Team” which has launched the Africa COVID 19 Response Tool Kit which shares information about the virus and offers ways to implement solutions for communities.

– The “Social Media Ops” where social media is used to educate, debunk myths and call people to action.

Ghenna says she works with these teams virtually through Zoom and Slack while currently in the states, but she will return home to Ethiopia on June 1 where she will join the domestic team for ECRT.

Since the stay-at-home order was set in place, Ghenna says that books have been her escape. She says she’s also been baking, knitting and reading and though it “may sound like the old woman trifecta,” it makes the time fly and she has fun doing it.

Ghenna advises the Augustana community to “take it easy.”

“We are living in unprecedented times, so do what you can and what makes you happy,” Ghenna said. “Take a moment and try to find at least one beautiful thing around you every day. Beauty can come in the form of a colorful flower outside, a joke that made your mother laugh or even an inspirational story you read on your phone. All we have to do is to stop and allow it in. Things will get back to normal soon, and in the meantime, we must remember that this is not forever. Let’s keep our spirits up.”



nominated by Haley DeGreve

“I’d like to nominate Anna Misener for checking in on me every day and offering to help make social media graphics for Foster’s Voice Suicide Awareness and The Gray Matters. She has been a huge help to me while we fight the stigma of mental illness and help stop suicide.” – DeGreve

Misener says that she knows a lot of people don’t have the same support at home that they do at school, so she wants to make sure everybody’s okay, calling herself “the mom” of her friend group.

Misener is a biology major, but says as someone who has her own mental health struggles, she’s passionate about making sure people know that it does get better, which is why she’s offered to help with Foster’s Voice Suicide Awareness and The Gray Matters.

To keep busy during this time, Misener interacts with her pet snake and dog. She has also been doing a lot of reading, art, binge-watching and gaming now that she has extra time.

“Make the best out of the situation,” Misener encourages the Augustana community. “It’s a lot nicer for yourself and anybody who might be around if you’re trying to make the best of the situation. And don’t be too hard on yourself right now. It’s okay to kind of step back a little bit and take time for yourself.”



nominated by Michelle Quinn

“MT is such a strong person. She is supportive and caring in every way possible. She has kept such a positive and encouraging demeanor throughout this tough time. I know she is an inspiration not just to me, but to many of our peers.”

Gehrmann says although she misses the lost spring events and live classes, she knew she couldn’t let quarantine get the best of her.

“Having an autoimmune disorder and other health complications, I acknowledge that I have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but I don’t want the fear of a virus to stop me from becoming who I want to be,” Gehrmann says. “Some days were very hard to complete my work or finish lectures before a quiz, and that’s why I tried to remain positive and helpful. I reached out to some of my friends because I would want them to do the same thing to me. We all may be separated, but we are still struggling together.”

Gehrmann says she is an “extreme extrovert,” and though quarantine has been hard, she keeps busy by walking her black labs, Augie and Chanel.

Gehrmann advises the Augustana community to treat each day as it’s own adventure.

“The hardest part of quarantine is the days lumping together, feeling like you do not have a purpose and finding motivation to continue,” Gehrmann says. “But you do have a purpose. You are a friend, a student and a change maker. Try to do something every day that makes you happy, no matter how larger or small that may be.”



nominated by Alexa Pedersen

Joselyn Peña is a senior majoring in biology and neuroscience. Quarantine has not tested lightly on me, but she has supported me by answering three to five FaceTime calls per day and even going as far as to send me a package in the mail. I am very blessed to have her as a friend!” – Pedersen

Peña says that though she typically used breaks from school as a time to disconnect from Augie and focus on her family, distance learning was different.

“I think it’s especially important to keep in contact with everybody back at school,” Peña says. “I’ve really been trying to keep in touch with FaceTime and messages and Twitter and Instagram, just letting them know that I’m still here and they can call me whenever.”

Peña says it’s been really nice to just be home with family during this time, as her younger brother had spent two months in the hospital prior to the stay-at-home order. But, he was able to return home in March, the same time that Augustana sent students home for the remainder of the academic year.

“I feel like this was a blessing in disguise for me,” Peña says. “Everything’s well now, he’s doing so good… it’s just really happy here for me and I’ve been able to spend lots of time with him and my parents and my older brother and have that time to recuperate.”

Peña advises the Augustana community to stay hopeful during this time.

“No one knows what lies ahead this summer or next year for future students,” Peña says. “So I think it’s just good to focus on your health and your safety and your families and your friends. I think after all of this we’ll all be able to look at our lives a little bit differently and realize how good small things are.”



nominated by Molly Bastida

I would LOVE to nominate Nadia Castillo!! She has been so strong throughout this whole distance! She’s been growing and working on herself and I think it’s one of the best things anyone can do during all of these crazy times! I’m so so proud of her and so thankful to have a friend like her during all of this!!” – Bastida

Castillo says that she made mental and physical health a priority this year, and through the help of Augie counseling has overcome obstacles and set goals to continue personal growth.

Aside from that, she says she’s been working out more, journaling, baking, gardening and doing crafts. Although quarantine is tough at times, she says now is the best time to discover more about herself.

“I think the best advice I could offer anyone during these weird times is to take everything one step at a time and to reach out to your loved ones,” Castillo says. “There may be some days that are better than others and that’s okay! I’m a firm believer that we can choose happiness and we all have the ability to do anything we set our minds to. Just take a deep breath and do what is best for you.”