Who do you care about? That’s the question college students at Mānoa Now hope their peers will think seriously about as their generation grapples with the challenges of living in a COVID-19 world.

Mānoa Now, a chartered student organization at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, has launched A Surfboard Apart social media campaign in partnership with UH Mānoa’s College of Social Sciences (CSS) and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (DOH). The group’s goal is to encourage mask wearing and physical distancing among their peers—if not for themselves, then for their loved ones.

7 head shots on zoom
Mānoa Now students

A Surfboard Apart centers around the use of a surfboard as a visual aid to approximate a distance of six feet between mask-wearing individuals. By using a relatable local item as a measuring device, the students aim to break through pandemic indifference among their peers with new, contextually relevant and memorable messaging.

“Our team wanted to come up with a fun way to remind everyone how much distance they should keep between themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Brittney Kruzel, 20, a junior double majoring in business management and digital cinema who serves as general manager for Mānoa Now’s UH Productions unit. “The average length of a surfboard is seven feet, so we decided to make a campaign where we measure the correct distance with a surfboard! We hope that the image will stick in people’s minds.”

The campaign comes at a critical point in the state’s efforts to flatten the pandemic curve. According to the DOH, while older adults continue to be the most at-risk for severe illness and hospitalization, those between 20- to 30-years-old currently comprise the largest group of positive COVID-19 cases in the state.

“Personally, being a part of this project helps me to connect, learn and interact with many students with different backgrounds,” said Karlee Shay, 18, a sophomore majoring in communications and a member of Mānoa Now’s marketing team. “This project has allowed me to get real-world experience on how to motivate, communicate and have a positive impact on others.”

“Student-led campaigns have proven to have tremendous value in effecting behavioral change. Working with the students has been incredibly rewarding as they offer unique insights. The students know their peers best, and they have put together a campaign that is sure to resonate with this age group,” said Bronwyn Sinclair-White of the DOH Communications Office.

Mānoa Now students will be developing a series of videos and posts as part of the campaign. The group anticipates that their peers will adapt and gain a better understanding of the importance of physical distancing, as well as wearing a mask as they watch the videos and engage with the social media posts.

“We wanted to show that our actions affect others, and that it is important to be considerate of others during this time,” added Kruzel.

The student effort was spearheaded by CSS, which has taken a leadership role in COVID-19 research and community discussion. “The virus impacts everyone. It crosses all strata of our society,” said Denise Eby Konan, CSS dean. “To have our students participate in this project as future leaders of our community is important—not just to expand their educational horizons, but also their leadership capabilities and understanding of how our communities are closely interrelated.”

For more resources on COVID-19 in Hawaiʻi, including fun activities to help pass the time while quarantining at home, visit Mānoa Now’s COVID-19 page.