Final ‘Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing winners announced

Two students win $5,000 each, faculty member wins $2,500 in final drawing

The University of Cincinnati has awarded its final round of prizes in the weekly ‘Strength in Immunity’ drawing.

To further encourage vaccination against COVID-19, the university has conducted weekly drawings for gift cards in varying amounts of $2,500 or $5,000. In all, the university awarded nearly $50,000.

This week’s final winners are:

  • Brendan Barker, first-year student, Carl H. Lindner College of Business
  • Monica Bozalongo-Galilea, biochemistry student, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Paul Wojciechowski, M.D., associate professor of clinical anesthesiology, College of Medicine
Student in mask holds sign indicating $5000 winner

Brendan Barker | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Brendan Barker was especially shocked when he learned he won $5,000. He didn't realize there was a drawing when he submitted his vaccination status.

"After doing some research I figured out that it was real, and of course I was so excited," he says. "It’s such a cool thing. I felt like I won the lottery."

While tempted to splurge on a flashy purchase, Baxter decided to put the money toward tuition and living expenses.

Baxter says he got vaccinated because it was the right thing to do. "I knew that eventually everyone needed to be vaccinated so honestly, I was just doing my part just like a good citizen should do," he says. "I would encourage other students to get vaccinated because it helps to keep everyone around you safe."

All in all, it's been an excellent first semester for the new Bearcat.

"So far, my experience at UC has been great and I’m really excited to co-op and for everything else UC has in store for me," Barker says.

Student in mask holds sign indicating $5000 winner

Monica Bozalongo-Galilea | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Monica Bozalongo-Galilea was also surprised to learn she was one of the $5,000 winners. The first thing she did was call her parents with the good news.

"I was very grateful and excited," she says.

The money will go toward school expenses and tuition, she says.

For Bozalongo-Galilea, getting vaccinated is step we need to take "so we can end this situation."

"I would encourage other people to do the same so we can come back to our 'normal' lives as they were before, as soon as possible," she says.

Masked man holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Paul Wojciechowski, MD | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Faculty member Paul Wojciechowski, MD, was working in the Medical Science Building when he learned he had won $2,500.

"I was quite surprised!"

He's not quite sure how he's going to spend it but plans to do something for his wife and kids.

Vaccination is particularly important to Wojciechowski as he works in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at UC Medical Center, where they treat COVID-19 patients.

"I would encourage all to get vaccinated," he says. "I see the impact that COVID has had on the unvaccinated and I do not wish that on any human being."

Wojciechowski first joined the university in 1998 for medical school, and he's been with UC ever since.

Sept. 30: Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing week 6 winners announced

Week 6 winners:
 
  • Julian Havens, student, College of Medicine
  • Beth Brock, associate to College of Medicine Operations & Finance
Masked man holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Julian Havens | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Julian Havens was studying in class when he learned he had won $2,500.

“My first thought was that this would help me a lot financially,” he says.

Getting vaccinated was important to Havens because of the direct patient contact that he has, and to keep his family, friends and others safe from getting sick with COVID-19.

He encourages people to think about others when considering getting vaccinated.

“Even if there are minimal risks associated with getting COVID for you personally, we are a community and we need to look out for one another,” he says. “It has been a tough couple of years for us all, and I would just encourage everyone to think about what they can do to help everyone avoid getting sick and get back to a state of normalcy.”

Staff member Beth Brock was working at her desk when she saw the email with the good news.

“I was shocked and giddy with excitement,” she says, “but I did have to read and re-read the email. It seemed too good to be true.”

Masked woman holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Beth Brock| Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

When it comes to the $2,500, she plans on “spoiling” her grandchildren, but also giving back.

“I’m a firm believer in paying it forward,” Brock says, “and with the holiday season right around the corner, it’s a really good time to do just that.”

When she got vaccinated, she says she felt relief.

“With all the information UC has provided on the vaccine, the impact it has on helping keep our community safe and healthier, why wouldn’t you get vaccinated? Vaccinations have been around for a very long time — look at Albert Sabin and the polio vaccine.”

“I appreciate the proactive and compassionate way the university has responded to the pandemic in keeping students, faculty and staff safe,” she continues. “The generosity of having this contest was just another added perk.”

Sept. 23: Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing week 5 winners announced

Week 5 winners:

  • Katherine DiGiandomenico, social work graduate student, College of Allied Health Sciences
  • Eli Awtrey, assistant professor of management, Carl H. Lindner College of Business
Woman holds sign indicating winning $2500

Katherine DiGiandomenico | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Katherine DiGiandomenico was working at her internship when she learned the good news. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I had to re-read the email a couple times.”

She plans on using the $2,500 toward next semester’s tuition.

DiGiandomenico says she got vaccinated to protect her family, friends and community. 

“I would encourage other students and anyone else to get vaccinated by doing their research using credible resources.”

Assistant Professor Eli Awtrey startled his wife by exclaiming in delight when he read he had won the $2,500 prize.

“We’ve discussed doing something fun as a family, perhaps going to Disneyland,” he says. “Because that’s what you do when you win, right?”

Awtrey relates the idea of getting vaccinated to his area of expertise in management.

“In my courses, I teach about using evidence to improve management skills, and the same is (obviously) true about medical choices,” he says. “Few things are guaranteed in life, but the evidence for the efficacy of the vaccine is overwhelmingly positive.”

He says he’s appreciative that UC is willing to put resources into encouraging and promoting vaccination.

“I am proud that we are an organization that can make difficult decisions by using data and evidence,” he says.

Sept. 16: Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing week 4 winners announced

Week 4 winners:

  • Sabrina Saunders, third-year pharmacy student, James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy 
  • Terry Kunky, project manager, IT@UC
Masked student holds sign indicating winning $5,000

Sabrina Saunders | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Sabrina Saunders was in her trauma/surgery elective class when she learned she won the $5,000 prize, which she plans to put toward tuition.

As a pharmacy student, getting vaccinated was an important decision for Saunders because it plays a large role in her future profession.

“I felt it was the right decision for myself to receive the vaccine and play my part in reducing the spread of the virus,” she says. “I encourage everyone to educate themselves using reliable sources on not only the vaccines, but the virus as well, to better understand the importance of being vaccinated.”

Masked woman holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Terry Kunky | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Staff member Terry Kunky saw the words “vaccine card winner” flash on her computer screen while presenting during a meeting, confirming that she had received $2,500.

“I am very grateful,” she says, “and I never win anything, so I am especially excited!”

Kunky plans to use the funds for an upcoming vacation.

“It was great timing,” she says.

Like many others, Kunky says she got vaccinated to protect her family, friends and coworkers.

“The sooner that everyone is vaccinated, the sooner we can all get back to normal,” she says.

Sept. 10: Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing week 3 winners announced

Week 3 winners:

  • Kyla Geitner, first-year political science (pre-law) student, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Brittany Punches, assistant professor, College of Nursing, College of Medicine
Masked student holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Kyla Geitner | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Kyla Geitner was studying in the library with friends when she learned she was the latest winner.

“When I read the email, I screamed,” she says, “which isn’t always the best thing in a library, but I was so excited. I couldn’t believe it.”

Geitner says she got vaccinated for her grandmother: “She is honestly my best friend, and her safety was a huge concern during quarantine. So I made sure I was vaccinated the second I could because not being able to see her often was heartbreaking.

“I’m so grateful that (the vaccine) was offered so early to young people like me.”

Masked woman holds sign indicating winning $2,500

Brittany Punches | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Faculty member Brittany Punches, who has been with UC as either a student or professor since 2003, was equally excited to receive the news. She plans to use the money to surprise her children with a trip to Disney World over the winter break.

“My kids are 7, 6, and 4 and don’t know we are going yet!”

Punches sees vaccination as a way to return to normalcy.

“I encourage everyone to choose to vaccinate so we can protect the vulnerable while getting back to normal faster.”

Sept. 2: Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing week 2 winners announced

Week 2 winners:

  • Ashley Rickens, second-year psychology student, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Amanda Buncher, adjunct instructor and special education field-placement supervisor, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services
Student in mask holds sign indicating $2500 winner

Ashley Rickens | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Ashley Rickens was doing homework in a coffee shop with friends when she received the news that she won the week’s $2,500 drawing for students.

Rickens says she’s going to put half the money aside for spring tuition and use the rest on gas, groceries and a special gift for her cat, Pumpkin.

She encourages fellow Bearcats to get vaccinated for their friends and family as well as themselves. 

“Keeping each other safe is important, and these vaccines have the power to do that,” she says.

Faculty member Amanda Buncher was putting her kids to bed when she got the news of what she calls an “unexpected gift.”

Woman holds sign indicating winning $2500

Amanda Buncher | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

“My husband had to switch careers last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is now the owner and operator of his own business," she explains. “There are many things that my family could do with this sum of money while his business is getting off the ground.”

Vaccination against COVID-19 hits home for Buncher because she had many family members affected by the virus.

“Being part of a community means considering the needs of others so that all can live safely together,” she says.

Aug. 26: First ‘Strength in Immunity’ vaccination drawing winners announced

Week 1 winners:

  • Max Gardner, second-year health sciences student, College of Allied Health Sciences
  • Kelly Rawe, assistant director of advising, CECH
  • Christina Tan, lecturer, College-Conservatory of Music
Student poses with sign indicating winning $2500

Max Gardner | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Student Max Gardner was working out at the Campus Rec Center when he learned the surprising news that he was the first winner of the drawing. He hopes to use some of the money to take his friends out to dinner.

Gardner says getting vaccinated was important to him because he wanted to make his loved ones feel safe.

“I did it just to be responsible and look out for other people,” he explains. “If we want to stop the spread of COVID-19, getting vaccinated is the best way to do that.”

Woman holds sign indicating winning $2500

Kelly Rawe | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Adviser Kelly Rawe is currently on parental leave after welcoming a new baby. She got the vaccine while pregnant so her baby would be born with antibodies.

“I strongly encourage people to think of others — especially children, or people who are immunocompromised — when making their decision about getting the vaccine,” Rawe says.

Despite taking so many precautions, her 3-year-old recently tested positive for COVID-19, sending Rawe and her newborn into quarantine. She learned about winning the drawing on her last day of isolation.

“After the stress of a COVID-19 case in my family, this was really a bright spot in the past couple of weeks.”

Woman holds sign indicating winning $2500

Christina Tan | Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Faculty member Christina Tan received the news between classes in CCM, calling the prize money a “blessing.”

For her, vaccines represent an opportunity to safely engage with the community.

“Getting the vaccine is one expression of ‘loving our neighbors,’” she says.

 


Featured image at top: Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Don't miss your chance to win

Enter to win by submitting  a photo of your vaccination card (front and back) via the COVID Check app.

Learn more about "Strength in Immunity."