San Diego Continuing Education clothing construction and textile students are volunteering with Project Mask to help combat critical protective gear shortages due to COVID-19.

Students are utilizing the skills they have learned in the classroom to sew homemade mask donations for their neighbors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines Friday recommending everyone wear a non-medical basic cloth or fabric mask to cover their face in public.

“SDCE students are expressing a deep desire to help, while the institution is not officially coordinating a mask donation, we are directing them to Project Mask,” said Shirley Pierson, an SDCE faculty member.

Project Mask was started by Emily Pritts Tournet, owner of Boho Fabrics in San Diego. Eva Tseng, a SDCE clothing and textiles student who has her own craft therapy company, led her peers to the community initiative.

“When I learned about the cause, I was so excited to join their effort to help get personal protective equipment to our healthcare workers and nursing homes,” she said.

In SDCE’s free clothing and textile arts courses, students learn basic to advanced apparel construction skills and the ins and outs of developing a sewn product from concept to fruition.

“We have been busy working creating mask kits, collaborating and formalizing patterns, and doing deliveries of finished face masks within San Diego County,” said Tseng, who started her company, Extraordinary Kits, in 2019 after completing SDCE’s free sewn products business program.

According to the Project Mask Facebook Page, since its launch in mid-March, the group has seen an overwhelming response from the county of San Diego as cases mount and needs more volunteers to aid with drop-off coordination.

Due to the urgency to protect public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Diego Community College District, including SDCE, has transitioned to alternative/remote modes of instruction through the spring semester.

“With moving everything online, I have been super busy turning my design studio into a production studio,” said SDCE faculty member Tammie Pontsler, who said 72 of her students attended her first Zoom meeting.

“We are all trying to quickly learn all of the platforms, but they seem to be excited and up for the challenge,” she said.

SDCE’s clothing construction and textiles department has partnered with local charities for more than five years.

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