The Collegian
Saturday, June 03, 2023

Two resident assistants create personalized mask program

<p>A sign located outside the University Forest Apartments reminds students to adhere to social distancing guidelines.&nbsp;</p>

A sign located outside the University Forest Apartments reminds students to adhere to social distancing guidelines. 

Two University of Richmond resident assistants, senior Jessie Bonilla and junior Brianna Silva, organized a Personalize Your Own Mask program for their University Forest Apartment residents. The program aimed for 25 student participants to express themselves through the creation of handmade, personalized masks. 

After brainstorming how to best personalize masks under a budget and discussing ideas ranging from decorating with markers and sequins to tie-dye, the two RAs settled on purchasing patches to attach to the masks ordered from Amazon, said Bonilla, the head resident of UFAs. 

Through a Google form, participants could register for the program and choose between a wide variety of patches, which the residents could iron or sew onto their masks, Bonilla said. Residents’ patch selections varied from flowers to stars to contemporary art designs, she said. 

Bonilla and Silva contemplated how best to construct the program to adhere to all COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Bonilla said.

“Obviously these are not normal times where we could have a full-on workshop or be face-to-face or have a table with materials where people grab things,” Bonilla said. "But I think I was able to accommodate everyone with what they wanted within the budget." 

On Sept. 25, Bonilla and Silva personally delivered packets including a black mask, the patches of the residents’ choice and a sewing kit with a needle and thread, in case the resident did not have access to the sewing materials. The two also suggested to residents that they use an iron or hair straightener to fasten on the patches, Bonilla said. 

Bonilla said each RA was responsible for creating two individual programs per semester and was given a budget to help coordinate the programs. Silva came to Bonilla with the face mask idea and the two realized it was not feasible to accomplish separately because of budget restrictions, Bonilla said. They decided to collaborate and bring the program to their combined UFA residents, which include residents of UFAs 162, 164, 481 and 483.

Senior Carolina Montoya, who participated in the program, enjoyed ironing on her whimsical selection of patches, which included a sunflower and flamingo, she said. 

“I think it is nice to find ways to express yourself,” Montoya said. “Most of the masks I have are just solid colors, so it is nice to have patches to show things that I like and add a pop of color, too.” 

Junior Paloma Catalan, who also participated in the program, echoed a similar sentiment regarding the importance of self-expression amid the COVID-19 pandemic.    

“Not only do you have the ability to express yourself [with the mask program], but also, it promotes health, especially in a time of uncertainty where a lot of people maybe just don’t feel comfortable in their masks or don’t like their masks,” Catalan said. “It is making sure that students are doing what’s right and wearing their masks.”  

Catalan enjoyed that the mask program allowed for residents to express their individual identities, she said. 

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“I think it was a great idea for them to make this something unique so that you have the ability to say this is a part of who I am,” Catalan said. “[The patches] are a part of my identity, in a way.” 

Bonilla said if the program was a success she would recommend it to her other fellow RAs but noted that she wanted to give the RAs the liberty to pursue a program of their choice. 

Contact lifestyle writer Ryan Hudgins at

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