Waterbury high school students helping NAACP, church, city boost COVID vaccinations in hard to reach communities

News 8 Exclusive

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — This summer, about 40 high school students in Waterbury are more concerned with helping to stop the coronavirus in their city than they are about hitting the beach.

A group of teens from Grace Baptist Church and the Greater Waterbury NAACP is getting paid to go into hard-to-reach neighborhoods with adult leaders to pass out flyers and interact with vaccine-hesitant community members and encourage them to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: Cities across CT offering incentives to get residents to take COVID vaccine

They know the pandemic had hit their city hard. As of July 2, the Connecticut Dept. of Public Health says Waterbury has had the most number of COVID-associated deaths than any other city in the state: 380.

“How dangerous COVID has been and losing close friends and relatives due to the virus,” teen COVID canvasser, Eli Reece told News 8. “It’s important to me to go out and educate.”

News 8 got exclusive access to the group Tuesday and saw, on several occasions, despite their best efforts, some people rejected their pleas. One woman told News 8, she doesn’t trust the vaccine.

“My grandfather years ago they were testing some stuff and they gave it to my grandfather and he died, you know?” said Annie Pearl Freeman. “I just don’t trust it.”

The kids tell News 8 they don’t get discouraged when people say “no.” In fact, Pearl applauded them for what they’re trying to do.

“God bless y’all,” she said. “Keep it up.”

This effort is being held thanks to Grace Baptist Church and The Greater Waterbury NAACP. They applied for grant money the city got from the state for this outreach program. The kids get paid $15/hour and will be at it until the end of August.

“The good thing about it is to have the youth being involved because this is a community service,” said Kenny Cook, Team Coordinator. “This is how they really become part of the community and understand that you have to make a commitment to the community that you live in.”

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