Here's wishing all University of Montana students a safe and healthy return to campus this fall.

As the University faces the same challenges as all other college campuses, students are volunteering for a new program, Griz Health, which will give them an opportunity to be part of the campus response to COVID-19.

As participants in the program, students will be involved in symptom checks on campus, providing the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, potentially helping at Grizzly Athletic events and, if the need arises, supporting the Missoula City-County Public Health Department as it conducts surge-capacity contact-tracing on campus.

The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty and a feeling of powerlessness. Griz Health allows these student volunteers to be on the frontlines of mitigating COVID-19 on UM’s campus, as well as in the greater Missoula community. Response from students so far has been described as overwhelmingly positive to the launch of Griz Health. Many signed up to serve soon after the call for volunteers went out. Almost half of the 75 spots ultimately needed for the program have already been filled.

UM Health and Medicine, in collaboration with the Western Montana Area Health Education Center, coordinated the overall development of Griz Health. A number of Missoula community partners also have pitched in to help support Griz Health. Dolce Software will provide free access to their Dolce app to help the Griz Health coordinators schedule students for various events. Garage Tees has assisted in the design and ordering of cloth masks for the Griz Health students to wear on-campus and in the community. The Griz Health Program and student roles will constantly adapt to campus needs for keeping healthy during COVID-19.

It's a journey with so many unknowns. Much respect for these students' willingness to step up. And our thanks to University of Montana News Release Service for the update.