Editor’s Note: As the nation responds to COVID-19, NYLS alumni and students are sharing their time, talents, and resources to benefit their local communities and the School. In this series, we share their stories.
Ready Girl—the city’s emergency preparedness superhero—has taught local kids how to plan ahead for earthquakes, hurricanes, and power outages.
Now, she’s taking on her first pandemic.
Ready Girl’s alter ego is Katelyn (Katie) James 4L Evening, who balances her legal studies with her role as a community engagement program specialist at NYC Emergency Management.
She built the award-winning educational program over the past five years. It’s now poised for nationwide distribution, with a video series and one—soon to be three—custom comic books.
Helping Kids Understand COVID
As COVID-19 spread, James saw a gap in children’s understanding of the response.
“The information given was surface-level—for example, school is closed,” James said. “What I wanted to do for kids was to explain why in a way they could understand.”
James typically gives presentations in New York City public schools. With schools closed, she recorded a video message from her apartment, working closely with her Emergency Management and Health Department colleagues on the messaging.
In the video, she explains why staying home is important right now and demonstrates proper hand-washing (“like kryptonite for the virus!”) It has become her most-watched video ever.
Supporting Frontline Workers
Though James is committed to her community engagement work, she’s spent most of the past several weeks on other critical assignments: coordinating medical surge staffing.
The city has called on retired medical professionals—including doctors, nurses, mental health workers, and social workers—to help health care facilities respond to the spike in COVID cases. New York has also hired contract health workers.
James is a vital link between these groups and health care facilities, helping to match professionals with institutions that most need their help. She’s also supporting the city’s effort to provide hotel rooms to people affected by COVID.
“Every day is a new challenge, and I’m on the phone from morning until my evening classes,” James said.
And now, more than in any prior emergency, James is using her legal training.
“There are so many pieces to this response,” she said. “Law school has prepared me well for the ‘issue-spotting’ elements of it—What could become a problem down the road? I’m also gaining a new understanding of the city’s contracting process during emergency situations.”
James, who comes from a family of civil servants, counts herself fortunate to be working and to be part of the NYLS community.
“The challenge is to remain optimistic and positive while being mindful of the severity of the situation,” she said. “Everyone—from my city colleagues to the NYLS faculty and staff—has been so great and gracious during this time. The entire School really rose to the challenge, and it’s made a big difference.”
Those who wish to support NYLS and its students can learn more here.