Person of the Week
A Vaccine Hunter and Angel: Izzo Assists His Community and Beyond
Northford resident Luke Izzo, 16, is the youngest moderator of the 24,000-strong NY/CT/MA Vaccine Hunters and Angels Facebook group, for which he’s also established a hotline for non-English speaking folks in need of assistance with lining up their vaccinations. (Photo courtesy of Luke Izzo )
When 16-year-old Luke Izzo first joined the New York/Connecticut/Massachusetts Vaccine Hunters and Angels Facebook group to see if he could help others, his efforts got noticed. Within a few weeks, the Northford teen and New Haven Academy student was asked to become the youngest moderator of the page, which is currently some 24,000 members strong and growing.
“Primarily, the main focus of the group, at first, was to help elderly folks, and searching for excess doses,” says Luke. “I joined the group and I was consistently posting. The administrator reached out to me. He saw my potential; because of my age I could reach out to a certain demographic that he and other moderators may not be able to reach out to. So I’m the youngest moderator on the page. A bunch of the moderators are doctors and medical people. I’m the only teenager.”
Luke spends about 40 volunteer hours a week as a moderator for the Facebook page, which can be found at vaccineangel.com.
“We have hundreds of people that come to the page every day and they post the same questions as other people do every day, asking for help. That’s where we come in,” says Luke. “We’re there not only for moral support; we are also there to walk them through the process and help provide instruction, and then, if they’re still struggling, to actually book an appointment for them.”
As of late last week, Luke says he’s personally assisted more than 200 people and counting seeking assistance through the Facebook page. Luke also contributes press releases for the Facebook page.
“I watch the governor’s press briefings... I stay on top of all the vaccination news through Google news and [sites] like that,” he says, adding the seemingly ever-changing state and national COVID-19 vaccine news is one reason why so many people come to the Facebook page for help.
About a month ago, Luke added another layer to the page, establishing a hotline for non-English speaking folks in need of assistance with lining up their vaccinations. Currently, the hotline primarily supports those from Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic-speaking communities, with other languages also being added as more as volunteers come online.
“I started the hotline with a post on the Facebook page looking for bilingual speakers, because I had this idea that there’s a lot of folks that don’t speak English, and wouldn’t know how to navigate a system that’s already complicated for folks that know how to speak English,” says Luke. “I imagined it would be 10 times harder for people who don’t speak English. So I saw that problem, I addressed that problem and I got together a bunch of volunteers and created the hotline. We assist people that don’t speak English or don’t have access to the Internet in booking their vaccine appointments.”
If it sounds like Luke has some experience in leading others, that assumption would be quite right. He’s the chair of the New Haven County High School Democrats and senior patrol leader of Northford Boy Scout Troop 463. Luke’s also served as a congressional intern for U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and is involved in Model Congress and Model United Nations at New Haven Academy.
“I enjoy activism and grassroots organizing,” he says. “One of the mottoes of our school is ‘Get Involved,’ and that’s definitely one of the mottoes I’ve followed.”
Luke says he was especially inspired to get involved politically during a one-week trip to Washington, D.C. with the non-profit national educational action group Close Up.
“That got me started on the political stuff and organizing, and I’m very involved,” he says. “I’ve volunteered for numerous campaigns—Sanders, Warren, and now the Biden campaign. There’s a lot more, but those are some of the big ones.”
Luke got involved with New Haven County High School Democrats as a freshman and has been working hard to get the group revitalized in his current role as chairman.
“That’s something that takes up a large chunk of my time,” he says. “We’re actually relaunching New Haven County High School Democrats [this] week, after being off due to COVID.”
Putting his time, effort, and experience toward helping others is something Luke expects to be doing for the rest of his life.
“I want to be a civil rights lawyer or [attorney] for non-profits, and eventually go into politics,” he says.
In his hometown, where Luke attended North Branford Public Schools from 2nd- through 8th grade, he’s actively assisting his community and his church, North Branford Congregational, with his COVID-19 vaccination search efforts.
“I definitely helped folks through my church,” says Luke. “I’ve been in contact with the libraries, too, helping them. And we have a Community Pride Facebook page with 5,000 people in our town, so I post on there to help people in my town, too.”