Major: Justice Studies
Sabine Gonzalez decided to attend College of DuPage after high school because she knew she was joining the Illinois National Guard.
“I joined at 17 to find myself and become part of something bigger than myself,” she said. “I was shy in high school and I wanted to meet people from all walks of life. I also wanted to continue my education, and COD was flexible. I could take some classes online and it fit with my financial needs. It also allowed me to stay close to my family because I knew I could be living anywhere in the U.S. if I was called for duty.”
That call came when Gonzalez was enrolled full time in her first year at COD. She knew she could be deployed at any time, but she never thought it would be to help in the fight against one of the world’s deadliest pandemics, COVID-19, right in her own back yard.
“Never in a million years did I expect that I would be on the front lines fighting a pandemic that has taken over the world,” she said. “When I got the call that I needed to report the following morning, I was not sure what to expect. I knew how dangerous and out of control the virus was, so stepping into what seemed like a war zone made me apprehensive. But I knew I had to step up for my country.”
Gonzalez is stationed at a coronavirus testing site on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Each morning, she leaves her hotel room in nearby Rosemont and makes her way to an old vehicle emissions testing facility in the Dunning neighborhood where more than 115 Guard members are working to test first responders and health care workers for COVID-19.
While Gonzalez is not the one administering the test, she works in the staging zone filling out patient paperwork and retrieving patients’ vitals.
“I’m grateful we have protective equipment, like gowns and N-95 masks, because most of these patients are very symptomatic and we’re interacting with hundreds a day,” she said. “I am only interacting with patients through a cracked window, but with such a contagious virus, it only takes one slip-up to get infected myself.”
After administering the daily limit of 250 tests, Gonzalez and the other Guard members go through a decontamination process and have their temperatures taken a final time. She then heads back to her hotel room until her next shift the following day.
While she said it can be isolating, she looks forward to working on her COD classes through the help of her professors.
“With classes now virtual due to campus closing, I’m able to continue my full class load online,” she said. “I miss the hands-on learning, but I’m grateful to my professors who have been providing me extra support during this time.”
Despite the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, Gonzalez said it puts her mind at ease knowing she is able to help.
“Before my unit got activated, I felt like I was helpless and there was nothing I could do,” she said. “In a couple of years from now, I’ll look back and be able to take this experience with me in my next endeavor.”
Gonzalez, who is majoring in Justice Studies, wants a career in law enforcement as a police officer and eventually work as an investigator. She knows her six-year commitment to the National Guard will help her tremendously in her chosen career.
“I want to thank my professors for being so understanding and flexible after I got deployed to a COVID testing site,” she said. “They make sure I had everything I needed to feel supported during this unprecedented time.”