Posted on Nov 10, 2016

VCARE students show up for duty during Hurricane Mathew

VCARE students show up for duty during Hurricane Mathew

Those who serve, give up everything to defend civilians. Even in the face of danger, they sacrifice their lives to protect those at risk.

That was the case for veterans to bachelor of science in nursing, or VCARE, students, Jessica Panasewicz and Elizabeth Arp.

When Hurricane Mathew hit the east coast of Florida, they were called for duty.

Panasewicz and Arp, who both serve as medics in the U.S. Army National Guard, were called to serve and provide support for thousands of citizens in the path of Hurricane Mathew.

“When the hurricane approached Florida, we headed to Jacksonville in a convoy,” said Panasewicz. “We followed the path of the hurricane, and we got there at night.”

Photo from Florida National Guard Facebook Page

Florida National Guard moves into affected areas of  Hurricane Mathew. Photo from Florida National Guard Facebook Page.

Panasewicz and her unit spent five days in the affected areas providing security, order and relief.

“We delivered food and water to evacuees,” said Panasewicz. “We also provided help to citizens with special medical needs.”

Arp was deployed to Brevard County, where she was assigned to do the same. Due to flooding concerns in that area, her unit also made sandbags and handed them out to residents in coastal areas.

“We went from shelter to shelter to make sure people were safe,” said Arp. “Serving during disasters like these is such a rewarding experience. People feel safe in our presence, and greatly appreciate our help.”

Panasewicz shared the same sentiment. “This is why we joined the National Guard. Serving our own communities is our duty and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”


Arp and Panasewicz are both in the VCARE program. They said choosing USF to complete their degree was the best decision they’ve ever made.

“USF Nursing has been supportive and accommodating,” said Arp. “Faculty and staff understand our work and obligations, and we couldn’t be more thankful.”

Arp is in her last semester of the program. She expects to graduate in Dec. 2016. Panasewicz is in her first semester of VCARE, and expects to complete the program in Dec. 2017.

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Story by Vjollca Hysenlika