Nadia Vazquez, a 26-year old University at Buffalo medical student, is a survivor of COVID-19. She wants people her age to know they could get infected just as she did. That’s why she is telling her story at two virtual meetings geared toward teens and younger adults.

The meetings, part of the “COVID-19 Community Café Series,” will be held on Thursday May 6, and Thursday, May 13.

Sponsored by the Confident Girl Mentoring Program, a local mentoring organization, the goal of the series is to provide people in Buffalo ages 16 and older with information about how COVID-19 has been impacting Generation Z.

Tiffany Lewis, president and CEO of Confident Girl Mentoring Program said: “Our organization wanted to host this conversation so that our young people in Buffalo get the facts so they can do what they need to do to stay healthy and to succeed.”

Free and open to participants ages 16 and up, the events are co-sponsored by Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Buffalo, the Buffalo Center for Health Equity and two UB organizations: the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) and the Community Health Equity Research Institute.

When and where: The first meeting will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on May 6 at

Who: In addition to Vazquez, the event features Lewis; Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; Devon Patterson, youth organizer; Aqeela-Jihaada Thompson of Rise to My Call; James Macleod, youth advocate; and Stan Martin, director of CAI-REACH Buffalo.

Vazquez, a member of the Class of 2024 in the Jacobs School, said she was eager to participate both as an aspiring physician and as a COVID-19 survivor.

“I believe this is important both as a medical student and because of the hesitancy of people, especially minority people, to get the vaccine,” said Vazquez. “I want to be there and listen to their concerns. I can provide them with accurate information and sources that could help them understand the virus.”

Murphy, director of both UB’s CTSI and the Community Health Equity Research Institute, stressed the importance of connecting with young people as the pandemic increasingly impacts these populations.

“Now that the majority of the population over age 65 has been vaccinated, spread of the virus in the community is occurring predominantly among younger people,” said Murphy. “More and more young individuals are being hospitalized and experiencing more severe illness. That is why the Community Health Equity Research Institute, in particular, is now making it a priority to connect with youth, particularly in our underserved communities. We are reaching out to teens and young adults during this continuing pandemic so that they understand the stakes and can share that information with their peers.”

Vasquez’s story will be especially illuminating. “I don’t have any pre-existing conditions,” she said. “I wasn’t traveling, and I was healthy. I want to tell them my story and help them understand that I thought I was going to die.”

For Vazquez, the scariest part about her illness was seeing how alarmed and concerned her family members were. “You don’t think about yourself in those moments. You think about all the people in your life,” she said. “It’s not worth them losing you or you losing them. So get the vaccine.

“The vaccine doesn’t scare me, but COVID did and still does,” she continued. “I almost died due to the virus and am still recovering and experiencing the long-term effects of the virus. I hope the participants hear my story and understand that this could have been them.”