Preeti Juturi outdoors
January 25, 2022

Student raises funds on Twitter to buy masks for campus

Highlanders can request two free KN95 masks produced by reliable sources

Author: Malinn Loeung
January 25, 2022

There's the fear of catching COVID-19, and then there's the anxiety that comes with buying the right mask.

UCR experts advise the first pick for face coverings should be the N95 mask, the second the KN95 mask, and the third a combination of the surgical mask worn under a cloth mask. But N95s and KN95s are more costly than the latter, due to their more detailed construction, making them not as attainable for some. On top of that, finding genuine, non-counterfeit masks that are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is another daunting obstacle. 

Those guidelines and “buyer-beware” red flag are the motivation behind a new student-led campaign to provide free KN95 masks for UCR students, faculty and, staff.

The UCR Mask Mutual Fund & COVID-19 Safety Initiative was founded by Preeti Juturu, a fourth-year public policy and economics double major, with the help of her campus colleagues Arshneel Kaur, Hannah O'Brien, Sean Nguyen, Zelia Hellmold Nezahualcoyotl, along with other student volunteers. 

“Given the increased threat of the COVID-19 omicron variant across the globe, it was clear to me that the general public needed access to resources that'd help reduce transmissibility. With essential workers, immunocompromised, and additional vulnerable populations risking their lives on a daily basis to go to school and work, it is essential that at the very least, people use high-quality PPE,” Juturu said.   

“As a strong believer in the ‘think globally, act locally’ slogan, I knew that starting small and supporting the UC Riverside community in acquiring PPE would be the first step in addressing the overarching issue of COVID-19 transmission in the region.” 

Although her team’s mask initiative serves all Highlanders, regardless of socioeconomic status or race, Juturu’s current efforts are inspired by her preceding work with the STOP COVID-19 CA project — a research collaborative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) that focuses on increasing community engagement in public health messaging and addressing health disparities and COVID-19 concerns among African American/Black, Latinx, and Native American communities in the Inland Empire.

“When I see inequities and a need for change, sometimes it takes initiating it yourself to bring attention to an issue and provide services in a timely fashion,” Juturu said.

Designed to supplement campus-wide efforts, Juturu announced her student-led mask initiative via Twitter in early January 2022 and was initially funded solely through Juturu’s personal finances. But recent call-to-action campaigning on social media by her team and supporters resulted in more than $1,500 in donations. The team is currently awaiting shipments of more masks from trusted suppliers like Project N95 and Bona Fide Masks but has so far distributed more than 100 masks to the campus community, and secured 800 masks to distribute in the near future. The goal is to prepare the campus community for a safe return to campus on Jan. 31, 2022, when the UCR campus resumes in-person instruction.

Request Masks

Any UC Riverside Highlander (student, faculty, or staff) can request two KN95 masks through a Calendy scheduler. The request-to-distribution time is approximately one day and Highlanders can pick up their masks on campus. (Masks are currently only available to the UCR community but the team hopes to expand the service to the local Riverside community as they increase their resources.)

Support the Initiative

Help the UCR Mask Mutual Fund & COVID-19 Safety Initiative by making a financial donation through Venmo to @palmarius. UCR students, faculty, and staff who are interested in volunteering can email Preeti at

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