During my STEP Signature Project, I first participated in a Buck-i-SERV trip to Solomon’s Temple in Atlanta, GA where myself and nine other students volunteered with underprivileged youth and homeless families. Throughout the rest of the summer, I concurrently conducted clinical research and volunteered within a hospital as a patient advocate assistant.
My views of the world and myself transformed over this past summer. On the Buck-i-SERV trip I learned how close anyone is to homelessness and that most often, it is not anyone’s fault. I spoke with mother’s who had a few runs with unavoidable bad luck which ended in homelessness. I also observed how homelessness can affect children’s behaviors and education. While the parents are working all day in order to make a living and provide for their family, there is no one to give growing children the emotional support they need. There is also no one to give these children encouragement and work with them on their education. A lot of learning goes on outside of the school day and when no one is available to help out, these children easily fall behind.
While volunteering and conducting research I learned that I truly want to become a physician to critically think through patients’ complications in order to come up with a solution, so they can keep living their lives.
During my Buck-i-SERV trip, on day one I immediately bonded with one of the first graders. He was the middle child of a large family and his parents were constantly working in order to provide for all of the children. I helped him with homework every day. Although he was in first grade, he could not read at a first-grade level. Due to the circumstances he was born into, he was falling behind in school. I sat down and slowly went through his homework, encouraging him the whole way through. It was difficult, and he threw some fits but by the end of the week he had goals and was beginning to enjoy doing his school work.
This same child also had a large temper. He was easily angered and quickly became violent. Many of the children we worked with had these same traits. One day, we all sat down and gave a lesson on appreciation and kindness. We went around the room and had each child compliment another. Every child gave a compliment; every child received a compliment. The rest of that day was incredible. There were limited fights, if any, and everyone was being very nice to each other. Of course, by the next day, many of the children had forgotten the lesson but we reinforced it over and over. Rather than fighting we encouraged them to take a minute to cool off and then complement one another. We had better results than we had ever expected. Some of the children that never got along and were always fighting, were actually playing together nicely and complementing each other on their own.
While volunteering at the University of Toledo Medical Center I discovered my passion for helping others. I have always loved the sciences and known a medical field was where I belonged. I spoke with patients and handled patient concerns every day for five hours. I absolutely loved it. This daily excitement to talk to patients made me realize that I truly want to become a physician. I want to interact with patients on a daily basis as I critically think through to a solution in order to heal them and better their lives.
The lessons I learned on my Buck-i-SERV trip are valuable for my future career as a medical professional. It is important I understand the various backgrounds people can come from. It is also important I remain aware and sensitive to situations that are out of a person’s control. The lessons I learned while volunteering and doing research have altered the rest of my life. I have chosen to continue on a pre-medicine track and I will become a doctor. I will heal and help patients and their families.