Silver Creek’s girl behind the MASKS
Emily Bowers is used to keeping a busy schedule. The eighth-grader at Silver Creek Middle School knew she was going to have a lot of time on her hands when the COVID-19 closure hit pause on her jam-packed academic, extra-curricular, and social schedules.
In mid-March, on the first day of the school cancellation due to COVID-19, Emily noticed the local nonprofit group Partners In Kind issued public request for homemade face masks for distribution to nursing homes, including Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation, where Emily’s grandfather, Marion Pagano, is currently living.
Emily, 14, raided her sewing cabinet and thankfully had enough appropriate supplies to begin production. Since then, she has been steadily stitching masks while also keeping up with home learning. She has made more than 150 masks and continues to refine and improve the process. In fact, she celebrated her birthday April 6 in part by sewing masks at home.
“I saw all the incredible nurses putting in so much effort to keep everyone safe and healthy,” says Emily. “And I wanted to be able to help these heroes.”
A majority of her masks have been donated to nursing homes, but she is receiving many requests for personal-use masks. Emily has bestowed health care workers and other essential employees (including truck drivers, food supply workers, and construction workers) with her face coverings. In addition, some elderly friends and loved ones plus a family dealing with COVID-19 in their home are recipients. Emily’s masks are being used as far away as Florida.
“She has had people offer to pay for her services, but she is happy to offer the masks at no charge,” says her mom, Marianne Bowers. “She is just so proud to have a way to help others during this difficult time.”
Emily learned to sew in Family and Consumer Science Club (FACS) at SCMS, where students participate for one quarter per academic year. They focus on sewing in the sixth grade, cooking in seventh grade and career development/financial management in eighth grade.
After the 10-weeks sewing unit, Emily continued to hone her skills in Sewing Club, which meets twice weekly when school is open. Its members pursue personal projects in sewing, knitting, crocheting, latch hook and embroidery. Students supply their own materials and the advisor helps them with the project from instruction interpretation to modeling skills.
“We are grateful for the important life skills that Silver Creek CSD provides to our children,” notes Mrs. Bowers.
Principal Eleanor Payne says the emphasis on life skills at SCMS helps students gain confidence and knowledge while also building character.
“So many lessons overlap when we encourage our students to try something new,” says Payne. “Developing patience, perseverance, resilience and determination can only enhance their education and abilities.”
Her mom describes Emily as someone who likes to keep busy, under ordinary circumstances.
A member of National Junior Honor Society, Emily is a competitive dancer with Infinity Dance Academy, and also helps teach dance to toddlers, pre-K students, and children and adults with special needs. She is a Girl Scout cadette with Troop 20069, an altar server for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RC Church and plays travel soccer.
At SCCS, she is on the cross-country team, a member of the Spanish Club and Science & Tech Club, and secretary of the Builders Club. She sings in chorus and is in band. She plays trumpet, piano, and various ukuleles. She was recently selected to be in a High School Vocal Quartet for the 2020-2021 academic year and to play in All County Band at Chautauqua Institute this Spring. She was in the Middle School musical, and was preparing to play in the pit band for the high school musical before the pandemic canceled those performances.
The school closure has obviously fueled her need to stay occupied and feel useful. After exhausting her sewing supply stash, Emily’s family bought more fabric, but elastic was impossibly elusive. A family friend came to the rescue with a donation of an industrial-size spool of elastic to support the cause. So, Emily was able to continue making masks and, as the need arises, her family purchases more fabric.
“I am so thankful for all the people keeping those like my grandfather safe from this virus, and helping other families that are dealing with the virus and other health issues,” says Emily. “If I can do anything to help these people that are spending countless hours helping others through this pandemic, then I am happy to do so.”
Humble by nature, this Black Knight is content to continue to work diligently while expecting nothing in return. But she does appreciate knowing people are making use of her masks, such as when Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation gave her a shout-out on their Facebook page recently.
Mrs. Bowers, who also sews, has been on hand to fill in an occasional knowledge gaps when Emily needs advice, but she’s finished all the masks on her own.
“I help iron and cut fabric once in a while, but it’s really been all her,” says Mrs. Bowers.
Emily’s generosity and commitment to hard work run in the family. Her two brothers — 11th grader Joe and sixth-grader Sam, who are Scouts with Troop 267 and also dedicated to community service — have also been assisting their sibling by cutting fabric, ironing, making deliveries and even a little sewing. Sam is in the FACS class at SCCS and Emily has been using this opportunity to teach him some sewing skills at home since he can’t be at school to learn them.
Her dad, Ron Bowers, is an essential worker on the road for a manufacturing project in Georgia. Under normal circumstances, he is home on the weekends with the family, but due to safety concerns and travel restrictions has been unable to be home since mid-March. His wife and children miss him dearly and mailed masks to him for use at work and in public in Georgia.
And the far-reaching impact of the training Emily received at SCCS is not lost on the district.
“It’s very satisfying — for me and our teachers — to look at what Emily is accomplishing and trace the roots of her inspiration back to the education she has received at Silver Creek,” says Payne. “Emily is a remarkable young lady.”