By Niagara County Community College
During the summer months of 2020, nursing student Tami Scruggs received news that the classes she signed up for at Niagara County Community College were going remote because of the continued threat of COVID-19.
“I am a bit older than the traditional college student so, when the nursing program went online, I was not excited,” she said. “It's difficult for me to be behind a computer and not in a classroom. I have to be more creative in the way I learn and study.”
Coincidentally, at the beginning of the pandemic, Scruggs began a new painting journey to deal with the stresses of the world’s new normal.
“My daughter and I had found a painted rock while on a walk. We thought painting rocks would be a good hobby while everything was shut down. It was a way to relax, clear our minds, and cope with the changes that were happening so quickly around us,” she explained.
During the fall 2020 semester, Scruggs applied her new hobby to the way she studied for exams in the competitive nursing program. She began painting cardiac rhythms in order to remember them.
“Painting on rocks helped me to not only memorize certain EKG strips, but it also helped me to relax. Usually there is nothing relaxing about nursing school,” Scruggs joked.
She is now a part of the Western New York rock-painting community, Sweet Buffalo Rocks. Scruggs joined the Facebook group and became a part of the trend spreading across the country of painting, hiding, and finding others’ rock creations. She is now an active contributor of an act which spreads joy, wonder, and a family-friendly treasure hunt at any given moment.
“I like to leave my rocks near walking trails, bike paths or public rock gardens for people to find,” she said. “Sometimes a silly rock really brightens someone's day.”
In addition to painting rocks to de-stress, study and make people smile, Scruggs is also painting them to teach. During the summer of 2020, her husband, Jeff, was diagnosed with Lyme disease. To help prevent the illness in others, Scruggs took her message to the woods, leaving rocks with ticks painted on them, reminding hikers to do a tick check and including a fact about Lyme disease.
While the world awaits a safe COVID-19 vaccine, Scruggs continues to find the silver linings while living and studying through the pandemic.
“You really build some amazing friendships in the nursing program and we all miss each other,” she said. However, “Online learning does allow for more flexibility in my schedule.”
To stay connected and supported, the NCCC faculty members have carved extra time into their schedules to connect with students in new and resourceful ways. Whether it is through one-on-one check-ins, lecturing outdoors while the weather cooperates, or moving classes to larger spaces like the campus banquet hall, faculty and staff are striving to meet students’ needs.
Scruggs said she felt supported, because “The nursing staff has open office hours via Zoom or we can send emails if we have any questions or concerns that need to be verified.”