STEP Project – Library Volunteering Reflection

STEP Reflection
Jonathan Karkour

Community Service and Learning Project

The STEP project that I undertook involved donating technology to my local library and additionally volunteering to teach classes. The objects that I donated included a mini 3D printer and three small programmable robots. My volunteering in library involved teaching 3D printing classes and volunteering to help teach in the library’s own tech classes.

Throughout the entirety of the summer I was teaching consistently and especially during the library’s classes I grew a newfound appreciation and respect for teachers. Foremost I learned that teaching is most definitely not the correct career choice for me. That is not to say that I was a bad instructor or that I do not enjoy teaching, but throughout my summer it just didn’t feel right. Being a teacher requires a patience that I don’t believe I have, especially with younger students. I do consider myself a patient individual, but this experience truly tested that patience. In the end I did enjoy my time teaching and I would probably do it again, just not as a career choice.

During my time with the library I taught and learned new things and with new people as well. My time working with the 3D printer especially affected me during my project. The Lulzbot Mini is a terrific device, its well-crafted with a software that is easy to use. The problems came with 3D printing in general as I was quite new to the process and there was a lot to learn. Patience was once again a necessity, but I had lots of it. In addition to patience I had to apply my problem solving skills to figure out what was going wrong with 3D prints and how to fix them. In addition I am very thankful for the very open and educated 3D printing community whose resources and advice were integral to making this project function. There is a lot of preparation to be done before teaching a class on any subject and especially one that you are not too familiar with.

Teaching has many different components. There are different ways of teaching, different subjects, and different groups of people. My experiences are in the former, teaching different students. The students I taught ranged from elementary to middle schoolers and even some elderly individuals. The forms of teaching that I had to employ were vastly different from the different groups. The younger students, for example, required more interaction and engagement so that they would actually pay attention to the subject being taught. This is especially true if the students are not interested in the subject, they will often find ways to have fun while subverting what you are trying to teach. The method of dealing with this is to make your teachings entertaining, which is something I have yet to get the hang of. With older individuals it is a much simpler process as long as you know what you are talking about. They are almost always interested and engaged in your teachings as long as you are able to provide the information they are looking for. Teachers must be prepared for the demographics they are going to teach.

Having someone to teach with or even acting as an assistant is an interesting co-operative process. While being a student it was rare seeing two teachers teaching in tangent. This is usually because it requires some very intense coordination and I don’t believe that any new instructors should attempt. Luckily for me when I was co-operating with the library instructor it was an assistant and primary instructor role and it helped. I don’t believe that I could have accomplished any of my teachings by my lonesome. The way this process functioned worked better when students were actually applying what they are learning during the lesson. The main instructor actually taught the subject while the assistant helped students either catch up or answer questions while the lesson remains uninterrupted. Of course this requires an understanding between both assistant and main instructor. I acted as assistant and instructor switching with the same individual. Luckily this individual was easily more experienced than I, giving me advice to my lessons and helping me throughout my entire project.

Before this project I had been debating as to what I wanted to do with my future, whether or not I wanted to expand from just getting a Computer Science degree to perhaps something related to teaching. I have always been an advocate of teaching as I believe that knowledge is one of the most important factors in our society. This project gave me some insight into how a teacher would operate and I learned that it is definitely not for me. Although I enjoyed my time with the library and I would do this all again in a heartbeat I don’t believe that it is the right career choice. I most likely will attempt to do some extracurricular work, either volunteering at my library, or my school as one of my previous instructors did.

Below is an example of an object being printed at the library.

UTMC Patient Advocate Assistant Reflection

STEP Reflection Prompts


As you may recall from your STEP signature project proposal, your STEP signature

project was designed to foster transformational learning—that is, learning that challenged you personally and helped you gain broader and deeper understandings of yourself, others, and the world around you. Please address the following prompts to help you reflect on your experiences completing your STEP signature project; please give careful and critical thought to your responses.


Name: Parker Stephens


Type of Project: Service Learning & Community Service


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.


My STEP project included volunteering at University of Toledo Medical Center as a Patient Advocate Assistant. The program is focused on patient interaction to increase the satisfaction of their stay while also interacting with nurses, doctors, and other medical staff to ensure all patient needs were met, including filing complaints should it be appropriate to do so.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.


I had a fairly large change in my view of those that need healthcare from this experience. Having the chance to talk to so many different people and learn about their lives, if only for a small amount of time, was very enriching. Previously, my assumption had been that healthcare was a field with a lot of hopeless situations and there was not much hope overall within the healthcare field. I quickly found out that this was false. There are many people who are eager to get back to lives, eager to see their families, and overall very grateful to have the care they were receiving. Talking to a great deal of these patients even brightened my day, which is surprising because many of these people are in such uncomfortable states.

A big change that also happened for me was my outlook on the state of most the people’s lives that are in the hospital. Many of the people I talked to had avoided the hospital as long as possible because of the huge burden of not working or having to pay such a large amount of money to get the care they so desperately needed. Hearing so many stories about the struggles these people have been through with making ends meet and trying to support their families after such an expensive excursion has made me want to care for these people even more, and to do everything I can to make sure they are able to find affordable ways to get back on their feet, so they do not have to come back to the hospital. One of the most valuable lesson I have learned is that the patient and their wellbeing should always be of primary focus, which seems obvious but can sometimes slip our minds. This holds true both in giving them the best care possible and trying to find the most affordable option for those that may be struggling financially.



  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.


A large portion of the transformation that I experienced was due to my supervisor, Deb O’Connell. The reason that she was so influential to me was due to her outlook on the patients. It was very important to her that when I and the other volunteers rounded on patients that we made it very apparent that we were there for them to talk to, and to make sure they trusted us so they may tell us anything that may have gone amiss during their stay. Being in a hospital and constantly seeing people all on the hospital staff can make some of the patients nervous about speaking out, because they do not want their healthcare to be effected negatively by reporting a problem to us. Therefore, it was very important to let the patients know that we were on “their side”, and that nothing bad would happen to them if they told us a problem they had with someone or something during their stay. Deb emphasized telling the patients that we were not there to get them in trouble, and we would do our best to fix their issue but could only do so if they would be willing to tell us. By specifically asking them to tell us what was wrong, they gained our trust more than if we told them to tell us. This made me realize the amount of respect and sometimes fear these patients have of the doctors, since the doctors are the ones that are responsible for doing things to their body that they are unable to do. On several occasions, I had to ask multiple times and repeatedly reassure a patient that I would not do any harm to them, and that a complaint being filled out did not mean the staff would retaliate and treat them poorly. On two occasions, the patient was only comfortable reporting an incident after they had been discharged, so contact information was provided for them to do so.

Along with the respect and sometimes fear that these patients have for the doctors and the rest of the medical staff, it also made me realize how much these people sometimes felt alone. There are many older patients or patients that are from out of town that do not have frequent visitors, so having a volunteer come in just to talk with them, rather than a nurse coming in to change an IV bag or a doctor to come in and round on a patient and then leave was a pleasant surprise to most of them. This made me realize that being a patient advocate did not mean simply reporting problems if there were any, but also being there to communicate and talk to the patients should they need someone to talk to. Many of the people had very interesting life stories, and even if they did not have an issue they still needed an advocate because they were lonely and wanted some company. Doing something as small as having a conversation often made these patients’ days, and it gave me some perspective on how I should act when I am hopefully a physician with my own patients. I must always keep my human character and never treat a patient like a subject; they are a human with a story and feelings and a family, and by treating them with respect and kindness I will hopefully deliver the best care possible.

Lastly, these interactions made me realize how much I enjoyed talking to these people. Getting to be part of the healthcare team was very engaging and gave me an enriching experience, but interacting with these patients and caring for them made me realize that being a physician really is something I am excited to pursue in the future. While advocating for these patients, I learned a great deal about the reasons these patients have problems and a lot about what it takes to make a patient happy while they are staying in the hospital. Knowing this information will be very valuable in the future, and I look forward to being able to use this knowledge to make my own patients as comfortable as possible under my care.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.


This change is monumental to my future plans. Realizing what these people need at the hospital besides the actual healthcare to make them better has been extremely valuable. I have learned bedside manner, how to best communicate with people that may not understand the healthcare system and may be confused, and I know how I am able to help them as a volunteer, which will be valuable for my future volunteering. Additionally, I have been educated a great deal on the healthcare system. Being able to interact with the nurses, doctors, patient advocates, and the numerous other branches of the healthcare field I have gained a much more thorough understanding of how a hospital works than I would have gained with almost any other form of volunteering. Dealing with patient problems was unique in that it allowed me to interact with many people from different fields within the hospital, which otherwise I would likely not have been able to interact with.

Additionally, being able to work at the hospital with someone like Deb is extremely valuable because of the connections that I could make. I was able to get several contacts for potential shadowing opportunities and met several individuals who were going to med school and could tell me a lot about the process. Overall, the summer was extremely valuable for my future plans of becoming a physician, and it has transformed my idea of what my future will be like and has reaffirmed that this is how I want to spend my future.

Photo form a UTMC newsletter in July


Name: Kaleigh Mills

Type of Project: Service Learning

For my STEP signature project I volunteered at Lower Lights Christian Health Center for four months this summer. At Lower Lights Christian Health Center I would act as a greeter in the main lobby. This entailed not only greeting people at the front door, but also making sure the lobby stayed cleanly and organized, regulating large groups of people in the waiting room, answering questions about the organization and the services, and helping direct people to where they needed to be for their appointments.

This experience has transformed me in the sense that it has made me passionate about community health, because it made me realize how badly our healthcare system has failed many people. More specifically, people of color and people who are homeless or poor.

Prior to this, all of my clinical experience in nursing school had been at the Wexner Medical Center, I have had patients of all different socioeconomic backgrounds, but had very little interaction with such a large population of underprivileged individuals prior to volunteering at LLCHC. This experience gave me a new outlook on healthcare. It opened my eyes to the fact  that certain populations of people (people of color and people who are low income/ in poverty) are not receiving the same continuity or quality of care as those are who do not fit into those categories.

At LLCHC (Lower Lights Christian Health Center) many of the patients are from the Franklinton area which is a very low income area that is considered a food desert, meaning many of the people in the area do not have means of getting to grocery stores because of their distance from them, thus they rely on food from convenience stores and gas stations. Lower Lights offers primary care, dental and vision care, pharmacy, and a newly built grocery store attached to the building. These are all much needed resources in the community.

Many people cannot afford certain services, and as a result even people with grave health conditions avoid care. Lower Light’s mission is to give excellent care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay. This could include lack of insurance, citizenship, or just lack of funds in general. Another reason this population is more likely not to receive adequate healthcare services has to do with the demographics and geography of the area. Franklinton is situated outside of downtown Columbus. It is a very low income area that is not within walking distance to resources such as healthcare and grocery stores, as many residents of franklinton rely on walking and the bus system. The location of LLCHC has made it possible for many residents of the area to conveniently walk to it. If they are not able to walk, there is even a transportation service offered. I had never seen such a caring and patient centered approach to healthcare before volunteering with this health center. It has made me realize that I would like to work in community healthcare, specifically with underprivileged populations because these are the people that need the most attention, yet these are also the people who are neglected by the systems we have put into place.

This change that has taken place within me is significant because I truly believe it changed my career path. Prior to this experience I was not sure what type of nurse I wanted to be. I would often think about it, but I would get lost in the endless options and specialties. Being exposed to this patient population truly made me realize the grave need for people in the healthcare field to care for this population as much as the owners of Lower Lights Christian Health Center do; their passion for the Franklinton community and the people who live in it has blossomed into not only great healthcare resources, but also new food resources.  

Community health nursing was not something I had considered before this endeavour, and now it is something I am very passionate about. The amazing experience i have had at LLCHC has inspired a new career and life goal for me, and I am so thankful for this transformative experience.

(unfortunately I am limited in media I can post because of patient confidentiality but here is a photo of an LLCHC pamphlet given to patients) 

STEP reflection

For my STEP Signature Project, I volunteered at Equitas Health and American Red Cross. I chose these two organizations because they are both nonprofit organizations, but the American Red Cross is an international organization while Equitas is a statewide organization that helps on a smaller scale. For the Red Cross, I was a Blood Transportation Specialist, meaning that I delivered blood, not only to city hospitals, but to surrounding county hospitals.

While completing my STEP Project, I learned a lot about both of these organizations. First, I learned that healthcare is a field that I know I want to pursue because I enjoyed learning about the face of healthcare, not only from the research and science side of it, but form the nonprofit and administrative side of it too. This project made me open up to the idea of possibly pursuing medicine in underprivileged areas where health care is truly needed and where patients tend to be at a disadvantage due to the stigma associated with not having private or good health insurance.

During my STEP project, I came in contact with a lot of different people. At Equitas Health, I attended a volunteer orientation that helped new volunteers gain an idea of what to expect when volunteering with Equitas. It also acted as sensitivity training because the organization services a large population of people from the LGBTQ+ community. They also taught us sensitivity training because part of the organization’s mission is to help those affected by HIV/AIDS. During this orientation, we heard a panel of people speak about their experience with Equitas, how they became infected with the virus, when they were diagnosed, and how we could educated ourselves to be “HIV friendly” when interacting with those coming to utilize the services at Equitas. This experience was transformational because I now have the information of how to be aware and sensitive to a new demography different than my own and I can use this, not only in my everyday life and coming in contact with my peers, but when I become a doctor, it makes for good bedside etiquette.
My experience with American Red Cross was the most transformational because I spent most of my time there. I was able to see how the Red Cross helps, in everyday life and in times of stress and disaster. I was a blood transportation specialist at Red Cross and my main job was to deliver blood to the hospitals within Columbus and in surrounding counties such as Muskingum, Morrow, Guernsey, and more. I did the normal, everyday routes, but I also did Stats (under 30 minutes or less for city hospitals and 90 minutes for county hospitals) and ASAPs (under 2 hours).  I mostly did county runs because it was the longest drive, but less stops than the city runs. I actually built small relationships with the lab people at  these different hospitals, especially at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Cambridge, Ohio. Everyone was so friendly and looking to help, even the front desk people. It also amazed me because this is an underserved area. It’s a small town an hour away from Wheeling, West Virginia which nearly puts them in the Appalachian Mountains. For years, those that live in the Appalachian Mountains have been known to be extremely poor and needing adequate medical care. Southeastern Regional Medical Center needed blood delivered to them almost everyday because they are such a small town with nearly no resources and if they have a Stat or an ASAP, they have to call Red Cross and hope that the patient’s condition does not worsen until we get there. They even have some situations where a local trauma is too big for them, since they are only a level 3 trauma center, and they have to send the patient out elsewhere.

My work with these hospitals has definitely opened my eyes as a future healthcare professional. It made me realize that working in an underserved area would be best for me because they need the most help and not a lot of people are willing to serve or move to an underserved area due to socioeconomic statuses. It also made me realize that I wanted to get into the healthcare field as early as possible so I can start helping as quick as possible whether it be in a big way or a small way. I also want to be able to have experience under my belt.

This change was valuable to my life because it made me change for the better in all aspects of my life. For my professional goals, it made me realize that I would want to serve in an area that is at a demand for healthcare professionals. Volunteering at Equitas opened my mind to possibly being an Infectious Disease doctor as well as a trauma surgeon because the panel discussed how the number of ID doctors is at an all time low. Volunteering at Red Cross made me realize that I would want to work in an underserved area such as a urban area or hospital. For my future plans, I decided that I wanted to get into the healthcare field earlier and decided to also go to phlebotomy school this summer. I now have my phlebotomy license and am working as a phlebotomist.  For my academic goals, my volunteering pushed me to start studying for my MCAT early and trying to find research with the Red Cross and shadowing at my current job under a doctor. For my personal goals, this caused me to continue to volunteer at Red Cross because I finally found a volunteer connection in Columbus. I volunteered a lot in high school and I missed volunteering when I came to college, but I did not know where to start.

Urban Project Los Angeles to Kids Across America

Name: Regina Doty

Type of Project: Service-Learning

For my STEP Project I had the opportunity to attend Urban Project – Los Angeles with other student athletes from across the country where we learned how to live out our faith in our athletic and personal lives while tackling issues of culture, racism, poverty, privilege, responsibility, and social justice. I then took what I learned in LA and applied it to my volunteering with Urban KLife in St. Louis Missouri and as a volunteer at Kids Across America, a Christian kids sports camp for urban youth.

I believe this summer project completely transformed my perspective and the trajectory of my life. I had the opportunity to get a tiny glimpse of what life is like in Skid Row and Nickerson Gardens. That experience in LA had a powerful impact on the understanding I have of my own privilege and the obligation I have to share that with others. I must be willing to sacrifice my own comfort to be a voice for the voiceless. Comfort in itself is a privilege. People need to understand that not having to even think about their race is a privilege. I have a renewed passion for broadening the lens through which I and others see privilege, true diversity, and the world.

While in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to see for a moment what life is like in Skid Row, the largest homeless population in America as well as Nickerson Gardens in Watts which is the largest housing Project west of the Mississippi. During my first week in LA we attended a church Service on Skid Row and visited Rodeo Drive on the same day. The colossal difference in these people’s lives, from extreme poverty to extreme wealth, for people who live so near one another was heartbreaking. In Nickerson Gardens as well, I had the privilege of pouring into the kids who lived there through sports and games. I was able to spend a couple of hours every day with kids getting to know them and learn about their lives. Working with nine-year olds who are watching their two year old siblings all day and have not had a solid meal when it is already 2 PM in the afternoon or to hear that they have never seen the beach when it is less than 30 minutes away truly puts life into perspective. It gave me a startlingly clear view of my own privilege to just even have a meal every day, to travel, to have family.

While attending Urban Project, we had the privilege of hearing from several speakers about culture, racism, poverty, privilege, and social justice. One common thread that connected all the teachings was about the lack of education we have as a culture. When you think about it, people of other cultures are forced to learn how to navigate white culture, but white culture is not forced to learn about other cultures and how to navigate their cultures. This showed me how important it is to educate ourselves on other cultures, so we may have a greater understanding and appreciation of the world we live in and those around us.

At Kids Across America, a Christian Kids Sports Camp for urban youth, I had the opportunity to be a counselor for five weeks of the summer. Through tackling the challenges presented at camp and the struggles and past that each child brought with them, I began to learn the importance of intentionality and what it means to truly love like Christ. Living life with them for just one week gave me a look at how broken we all are and the incredible desire we to be loved and valued. I will never forget the stories of brokenness that my campers entrusted me with and how that showed me in turn how as a follower of Christ I am called to the ministry of reconciliation and to love like Christ.

My experience this summer has allowed me to see every opportunity in a new light. I refuse to live passively. I am all the more eager to educate myself, especially when it comes to diversity, race, class, power and privilege. Additionally, this is not just about me and my perspective, but having the courage to share that with others. When I choose to live passively and in my comfort zone, I disregard the voices that are drowned out and forgotten. I can use my new perspective and passion for understanding in every endeavor and opportunity I have, whether that be academic, athletic, personal, present or future.

Pay It Forward: Community Commitment

My Signature STEP Project was a Service-Learning project that through Pay It Forward called Community Commitment Day. Community Commitment Day is a campus-wide service event in which OSU students affiliated faculty members reach out to the greater Columbus community to participate in a day of service. It is the single largest service event planned on a college campus nationally and allows OSU students to connect to the greater Columbus community and be exposed to different types of philanthropies and service projects that the community has to offer.

I learned a lot about myself and community through my time of planning my community service project. Previously in my time as a volunteer in high school and college settings, I was exposed to a lot of direct service experiences. Such examples of these service experiences include teaching core service values to elementary-school aged students. This type of service entailed interacting directly with the students. It was a transformative experience for me to be predominately behind-the-scenes as I planned Community Commitment. Many of the tasks that I was asked to complete included many behind-the-scenes logistical situations: getting agencies signed up for the day of service, assigning the most efficient bus routes, advertising and signing up site leaders, and many more behind-the-scenes tasks. It was transformational because it taught me the important lesson of the many small tasks that make a project successful and allows the event to run with ease. There are many people behind-the-scenes of various projects, service-related or not, that put in many hard hours to achieve a level of success. Although it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, problem-solving skills, and grit, seeing the project come to fruition was one of the most rewarding processes.

A second transformative experience was to see the longer-lasting effects of the act of service on the individuals that participated. I have always appreciated the “larger” message or reasoning behind why things are done specific ways. A major component that we stress while planning Community Commitment is the idea of service-learning. We feel as if there is no reflection after the service completed, the participating student is losing a chance to reflect and see the “larger’ message of the service that was conducted. It was really inspirational and transformative to see the students’ moods before they left for their service destination and upon arrival back to the university after completing their day of service. Many times, these type of service events draw freshmen and newer students. It was really heartwarming to see some students who were sitting quietly and tired at the crack of dawn on the Saturday morning of Welcome Week in the Union waiting to complete their day of service. It is hard to be excited about anything at 7:30 am on a Saturday, but upon arrival back to the Union, you could see some new relationships that had formed amongst participants within the service groups and how they had enjoyed whatever type of service that had just previously completed. It was a learning experience for me to understand firsthand the long-term impact that service-learning projects can have on individuals. It not only creates connections between students but additionally between students and the community they serve.

There were many leading factors that allowed me to reach the level of transformation that I experienced this summer through my service-learning project. Firstly, I had a phenomenal group of co-chairs that helped me plan the event: Jess and Zack and our adviser, AJ. These people taught me skills that I had not had before the experience as well as re-instilling some of my stronger skill sets. We spent the entire summer completing different segments of planning. The first segment of planning the large-scale service event was calling Agencies. Agencies are considered the philanthropic organizations or service projects in the greater Columbus area in which OSU students would be bused out in order to complete their day of service. Our first challenge was to call 250-300 agencies in hopes that we would be able to schedule enough agencies to fill 1,000 student spots. It took a lot of persersitence and perseverance to complete this process. We split up the amount of agencies among the four of us and gave ourselves a deadline to complete the calls. Perhaps one of the hardest parts of this process was the fact that many people do not pick up their phones nowadays. Many messages were left in the hopes that the information of this special service day would not get lost in translation. After about 4 weeks of calls, we reached our quota and had over 60 agencies registered to host close to 1,000 OSU students. A big thanks to the greater Columbus Goodwill stores for registering almost 70 OSU students to come and have a meaningful day of service. I learned the intense organization that it takes to pull off such a task as one of the transformative behind-the-scenes skills that I had gained. I have always kept some level of organization, but not to the extent of my co-chairs. Through their organization, I was able to become more organized myself in order to be successful at planning the event. Because of this experience of heavy planning and organization,I now regularly use a planner and Google Calendar. I have found beneficial uses for both and will continue to use them.

Secondly, the next aspect of the project was my main initiative. I was in charge of advertising the position of site leaders to the greater Columbus community. Site leaders are OSU students who are responsible for the his or her specific group that is taken out into the greater Columbus community to complete service, and is most of all responsible for leading the learning component of the service day through reflection. It is hard to plan for a position of this sort because the majority of our planning is done during the summertime when the majority of Ohio State students are not in Columbus area, and additionally, are not thinking about anything school-related. This process helped me develop and improve my skill of patience. I learned to finish everything that I could possibly do in the time period that I had and to be satisfied with the work I had accomplished. Knowing that we had 60 agencies to branch OSU students out towards, I went ahead and created the 60 site leader packets that would be used by each site leader, even though we didn’t quite reach our capacity of site leaders yet. In fact, by the first day of classes, we only had 10 site leaders signed up, but by the end of the week, all of the spots were filled. It was important for me to learn to do everything that I could in that moment, but beyond that moment, I learned to be patient and let the work do itself. After all of the site leaders were signed up, we had them come early on the morning of service for a presentation. I led the presentation which helped me to develop my public speaking skills. The main objectives of the meeting was to explain the logistics of the day to the site leaders and most importantly, the reflection part of the day that they would be leading. The public speaking aspect help reinstill the fact that if I am going to present in front of many people, I need to make sure I know the information inside and out in order to answer any questions that may be asked.

Lastly, one of the most rewarding processes was seeing the day all come together. The morning began with the site leader training and an opening convocation that featured Dr. J. After Dr. J. presented an important message about service and serving our community, the volunteers were sent out to their respective sites. This is perhaps where I completed my greatest amount of growing in the shortest amount of time. The team of Jess, Zack, and I really challenged our communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills as we sat in one of the rooms of the Union and awaited to hear from each site leader that they had made it to their project site. Unfortunately for us, nothing this large-scale runs this smoothly on a Saturday morning. We experienced many obstacles all at once as we received flustered phone calls from site leaders that had been taken to the wrong site, arrived at their specified site but there was no one there to direct them in their service project, bus routes that had gone rogue, and people completing projects within the first fifteen minutes. Each of us had to think instantly on our feet and creatively in order to ensure that these students, which may have been their first impression of service, were having a positive experience. We were able to problem-solve some of the issues by rerouting the buses, calling the leads of the agencies that had signed up but no one showed up, and creating service projects by using the free t-shirts that were for the event to make tie blankets that would be donated to local shelters. It was a stressful time as many people were talking all at once and addressing various situations, but you could say, for the most part, we problem-solved without a hitch. This really transformed me and allowed me to learn the behind-the-scenes portions that go along with planning a large-scale event. Lastly, I was also able to see the satisfaction and happiness on many of the students’ faces upon their arrival, and that’s where I learned another transformative experience on the long-term impact of service-learning projects on others.

The transformation of learning the behind-the-scenes attributes and the lasting impacts of learning-service on individuals is important to me and my future as I gear up for a career in the healthcare field. It is important to note the silent warriors and heroes of healthcare that ensure the operation run smoothly such as PCAs, nurses, receptionists, and hospital administrative staff. These people tend to deal with a lot of the obstacles and challenges that come with providing healthcare to many people, yet they do it with a smile across their face and skip in their step. I learned that these behind-the-scenes and planning tasks can be very challenging at times and take a lot of persistence and patience, but they are necessary and important parts to a successful project. Futhermore, I believe the long-term aspect of service-learning is important in the healthcare field because healthcare is an interactive environment in which you are giving yourself to others. While talking about day-to-day life with patients and learning the details of different cultures and backgrounds, it is important to make sure that a lesson  is always being learned along the way. I want to ensure that I am making an impact on others’ days and am not just another appointment that the patient has to check off of a list. I think learning this long-term impact will be valuable to me in my future endeavors in ensuring that I pass the lesson of importance, impact, and greater meaning onto others. I had a terrific and transformative service-learning experience, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served the greater Columbus community.

Pictured below, are some images of service from Community Commitment and my team presenting on the day of service!


Mothers’ Milk Bank Reflection

Name: Lauren Cea

Type of Project: Service Learned and Community Service


This summer I volunteered at OhioHealth’s Mothers’ Milk Bank where I assisted in the pasteurizing room. I helped sort, pour, and label milk. I worked alongside many nurses and other skilled employees in an effort to receive, process, and distribute breast milk as quickly as possible.


When I first decided on my STEP Project, I was excited for a new volunteering experience. Most, if not all, my clinical experiences come from volunteering in a hospital environment. I have interacted with patients and their families as well as done clerical work. At Nationwide Children’s’ Hospital, I visit patients in their rooms offering them toys, activities, or company. At Grant Medical Center, I complete clerical tasks for the prenatal testing desk as well as hold premature babies in the NICU. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy these experiences; I just wanted something new and different to contribute to my experiences when applying to medical school. I heard about the Milk Bank and it’s need for volunteers through Grant Medical Center and decided I wanted to pursue it.

At the Milk Bank, I was honestly shocked. My first day I sorted invoices into a filing cabinet. I was filing invoices from hospitals in Texas, Montana, Missouri, Ohio, etc. I was in awe. I had no idea that this Milk Bank in Columbus, Ohio was shipping milk to places as far as Texas and as close as Nationwide Hospital in downtown. It amazed me that the work being done here in Columbus could save a baby in Missouri for example. Hearing how far and close the impact could be, I recognized how important this center was to moms and babies everywhere. It gave me a sense of importance and honor that I was able to be a part of something so influential. In addition to this initial shock, I also grew an appreciation for the idea of breastfeeding and milk donation. I never had an opinion on breastfeeding or donation; however, now I see women who donate their breastmilk as heroines to babies that otherwise might not stand a chance. Breastmilk donation is not easy. There is a lengthy process that I will describe later. A mother’s choice to willingly donate her milk is an act of kindness like I have never witnessed before. Seeing this generosity every time I volunteered was refreshing and ultimately transformed me to appreciate an act I never even knew existed prior to my STEP Project.


As said before, I started my first day at the front desk. The Milk Bank was short volunteers so when I entered for the first time, I was not surprised that there wasn’t a receptionist to greet me. I was placed at the front desk and trained on the phones. A lot of hospitals or centers would call asking about their shipments and or requesting additional shipments. I also had to learn how to handle a call from a mom wishing to donate. I had to answer questions and explain the donation process to them. The donation process includes a note from the primary care physician of the mom as well as the pediatrician of the baby. The mom has to complete a phone interview and respond to a questionnaire via email. Once these are completed, the mom can donate her milk. She can either bring the milk to the Milk Bank in a cooler or ship her milk to the Milk Bank via an insulated package. The process is not a short one. Getting two doctors to sign off on the donation requests can be an irritating and tedious process. This was the first time I recognized how much these moms care about children other than their own.

I did some filing during my time at the front desk. I filed milk requests from numerous states raging from the Midwest to the New England region and all the way west as Montana. There very well could be a hospital requesting milk in California that I just didn’t come across. It amazed me that a little office in Columbus, Ohio was making an impact across the nation. Hospitals from all over were counting on the Milk Bank to provide them with milk. At one point during the summer, we ran out of 3-ounce bottles, the standard bottle size. There was an issue at Customs with the bottles coming into the United States. I never really understood what the issue was. However, I did notice how stressed everyone at the Milk Bank was because of this set up. We had to use 6-ounce and 1-ounce bottles instead. Milk was able to be shipped but not in their usual containers. I saw the problems this caused with the hospitals and medical centers that were expecting 3-ounce bottles.

After a week of working the front desk, I was asked to move to the pasteurizing room. I was excited to get involved in the actual milk processing. I had to scrub in with a package sponge. I wore a hair net and a white gown. This was my usual uniform every time I went into the pasteurizing room. It wasn’t an entirely sterilize environment, but the workers tried their best to make it one. There were times I would have to wear an additional gown, gloves and a splash mask. There were two women in the pasteurizing room: Matilda and Angie. Both took me under their wing and taught me everything I know now. I was first taught how to label milk. Each batch of milk had a unique number and each bottle was labeled number one through however many there are depending on the donation size. The milk arrives frozen to the Milk Bank. It is then thawed in a refrigerator and poured into huge labeled flasks. After sitting for a day, the flasks are mixed. This was a part of the process that was hard for me to understand at first. The milk must be tested before the bottles can be sent to other hospitals. However, the Milk Bank mixes different moms’ milk and then pours it into the bottles. This means that if mom A has a disease, then mom B’s milk has been contaminated and cannot be used. I was shocked by this process. They were risking that this milk would be unusable. I asked Matilda why they do this. She told me that not all moms have the desired calorie count for the milk: some are too high and some too low. They didn’t have the time to wait for test results before mixing the mix. They had to put their faith in the physician’s opinion and the trust the donating mother in order to get milk out to the hospitals as soon as the lab results came back. This put the need for breastmilk into perspective for me. The hospitals and medical centers needed it so badly that the Milk Bank was willing to take the chance of having to discard the milk to make sure it was shipped out as soon as possible. After the flasks are mixed, the milk is poured into bottles, preferably 3-ounce bottles. They are capped, sealed, and placed in metal baskets. These metal baskets are sent through pasteurizing machines that heat the milk and clean it. After about forty minutes, the milk is ready to be labeled with its unique code. This unique code can be traced back to the moms in case a mom’s milk does come back as infected with something. The sealed milk is placed in a tray and moved to a freezer until needed to be shipped. There were five large racks of bottles with almost all spots taken at all times. With all this milk always needing poured or packaged and shipped, I noticed the dedication of the employees that worked there. Matilda would tell me she got there at 7:30 a.m. every day and didn’t leave until 4 p.m. She would tell me about her son and how she needed to go pick him up on time but couldn’t leave until the milk was poured. I admired her dedication to the Milk Bank and tried to be just as good of a volunteer as she was an employee. At one point in the summer, Angie broke her arm. She wasn’t able to scrub in with her cast on and the Milk Bank needed extra help. I was able to increase my hours and nurses from Grant Medical Center started coming to help. It was amazing to see these nurses taking time out of their normal duties at Grant to drive out to the Milk Bank and help. They had to be trained just like me, which Matilda did with patience and ease. Not only did I develop respect for the breastmilk donation process and the Milk Bank, but also for the dedicated employees that are the reason it is even possible.

This experience was valuable to me because I think it opened up my eyes to a beautiful gift that moms everywhere have the ability to share. When I told people what my STEP Project was or even that I was volunteering at the Milk Bank, I received a couple horrified looks in return, followed by a comment about dealing with breastmilk all day. When I think about it, it was a new experience for me. I was handling breastmilk; if I spilled it on the floor, I couldn’t just go get more. It was of extreme value and I took that responsibility very seriously. I wasn’t grossed out or fazed by dealing with breastmilk every day. I was honored and appreciative that I was trusted enough to handle such a valuable resource. Any milk lost, is milk that a premature baby does not get or milk that a donating mom has wasted.


This relates to my personal and professional goals. My number one goal in life is to become a mother. Seeing the kindness and selflessness of the donating mothers made me want to do the same when I have children. Seeing how the milk would arrive in a cooler and end up in the Fed Ex guy’s hands going somewhere in the country was heart-warming. I hope one day I can show the generosity that these women showed by donating milk. This experience relates to my professional goals as I aspire to become a neonatologist for my future career. The milk was being sent to NICUs all over to help premature babies whose mother was not there to breastfeed or couldn’t breastfeed for some reason. By seeing the behind the scenes process of breastmilk donation, I believe I will be a better neonatologist for it, knowing that the milk given to my patients comes from a compassionate and gift-giving mother.

PT Observation

Andrew Westrick


This summer I stayed in Columbus to observe physical therapy and volunteer. Through my observation in physical therapy I was really able to get a grasp on what that kind of environment is like from a physical therapist’s point of view. Through volunteering I was able to connect with the community.

During my observation I was able to get a better understanding in the day of a PT. This summer I shadowed for 40 hours over the course of 3 months. During my time I was able to build relationships with the patients, the PT’s, and the PTA’s. This experience was a positive one in helping me be surer that physical therapy is what I want to do. To go along with that I also found out that the setting I observed in is not the one that I would want my future career to be in.

My relationship with the PT that I observed developed throughout our time together and I now feel as if I have a good resource in the community. The other PT’s were also very insightful, and I was able to talk to current PT students who were completing clinicals. This offered a lot of help in understanding the process of becoming a physical therapist. One of the other PT’s at the clinic was also very up to date with new studies and techniques. It was very interesting to hear about the work being done in the field that is now being applied to patients. I was lucky enough to be able to participate in some of these techniques to better understand them. While I already have a great respect for PT’s through personal experience, I gained an even deeper respect seeing their passion and drive to better each and every patient. This clinic and the PT that oversaw me are definitely someone I can go to for recommendations for graduate school as well as advice about the path I should take.

Volunteering gave me a feeling of belonging in the community. Although I didn’t make any personal relationships like I did with PT’s, I was able to communicate with individuals from the community, both who were also volunteering as well as those who were receiving the help. In some cases, it was those less fortunate and other times it was a business who just needed a helping hand.

Living in Columbus on my own, paying my own expenses really gave me a feeling of adulthood and money management skills that I now use to pay rent on my current lease. Since starting college, I failed to understand the responsibilities that come with living on your own as well as the value of money when living in the dorms with a meal plan. There is no single price to pay and no meal plan when living in an apartment. Monthly expenses are more than entertainment and restaurants. It becomes expenses that are essential to your well-being.

My experience living in Columbus over the summer really helped give me an insight into the community and physical therapy. I am very grateful to have been able to stay in Columbus and gain the life skills that I did regarding money. I plan to continue observing and volunteering when I can. MLK Day of Service is already in my calendar and I am very excited to be a part of it as well as other service days offered by the university. Volunteering outside the university may be more difficult as travel can be an issue, but I hope to be able to do that as well. In terms of observation I plan to observe at an acute care clinic as recommended by the PT that oversaw me during my observation. I hope to continue building relationships here at the university as well as in the community within and outside of the world of PT. Below is where I observed this summer.Related image


4K for Cancer – STEP Reflection

For my STEP project, I went on cross country bike ride (from Baltimore, Maryland, to Seattle, Washington) to raise funds and awareness for young adults affected by cancer. I did this through the Ulman Cancer Fund’s program, 4K for Cancer which puts on events and trips to build a community of support for young adults and their families so no one has to face cancer alone. Before the trip, I had a fundraising requirement of $4,500, which I exceeded. I was on a team with 27 other young adults. During our 70-day journey, we stopped at cancer hospitals, research centers, patient support facilities, etc. to provide service and support to the communities.


This trip was unlike anything I have every experienced. I was living in super close quarters with 27 people who all started as strangers but eventually became family. We were honest, vulnerable, open, competitive, and caring for each other, all while getting up early, exercising all day every day, going to bed late and sleeping on the floor, begging for food donations, and facing many flat tires. Yeah, I’d say this trip taught me a lot about myself along the way.


I went into the trip knowing I was a pretty tough guy. This trip tested that notion both physically and emotionally. There were days when we would have to bike up mountains. Steep grades that seemed to never end. I would think to myself, “This really sucks. I NEED a break.” Before I would get off my bike I would look back and see my teammates pushing through the pain right behind me. Some of these teammates being ‘weaker’ bikers than me technically, but having the mental strength to push on. I would motivate them just the same when we were biking through 110-degree weather in the desert of eastern Washington. Pushing and motivating them to stay on the bike and push through the struggle. It helped me to realize that comparatively, I’m not as tough as I thought I was.


This trip also tested me emotionally and taught me to be thankful and grateful for the things that I have. We all shared our “Why” with each other on night two. Your Why is the reason you are on this trip, who/what motivated you on the hard days to keep pushing. Hearing what some of my teammates have been though makes me feel so lucky to have grown up with little tragedy or struggle. Also, hearing the stories of people we met along the way helped me to realize how thankful I am to have a healthy body and mind, and because of the gifts I’ve been given, I feel like it is my responsibility and privilege to use what I have to help people who are less fortunate.


I also learned how to better communicate my thoughts and feelings and open up more to my peers. I have always been quick to listen but reserved when it came to talking about any of my own feelings or emotions. On the trip, we biked for 5-10 hours a day, there was nothing to do but talk with each other. We all helped to create an environment where people felt comfortable opening up and sharing the hard parts about life.


All of these changes and more are lessons that I’m excited to apply to my life after the 4K. These transformations can be applied to my future professional career as well as everyday life. I should never underestimate my peers. Give them the credit they deserve and they can prove what they are capable of. It goes the same for me; I should should never let anyone doubt me and if they do, I can communicate with them why I think they are misunderstanding. These lessons will help with any kind of group project or activity. One of the things employers look for most these days is the ability to work in a team and all the soft skills that come with that. Having this experience is something I’ll always be able to pull from for interviews and situations I face in the future.


STEP Reflection: Buck-I-SERV in Ghana

Through Buck-I-SERV, I spent two weeks serving children at the Hope for Orphans Children’s Home through the Akumanyi Foundation. Whether it was helping the children get ready for the day, assisting with the daily chores, or engaging with such bright and joyful kids, I learned so many valuable lessons that have impacted my life.

As a first generation African American, I anticipated this experience to be significant not only for the people I was there to serve, but for me personally in exploring my identity. I was able to come back from this experience with a newfound confidence in where I come from. While in Ghana, there was a renewed fire that stirred in my heart that yearned for social justice. I learned more about the history of colonialism and how it affected not only Africa but the African diaspora. This helped me better understand why the African diaspora is the way it is today. I had an awakened desire to want to do everything in my power to make the world a better place, whether it’s empowering the voiceless, encouraging and loving others well or finding ways that I can better serve my community here at home. It was so refreshing to witness the beauty of Africa. The beauty of the people, the landscape, and the culture is so often tainted and misconstrued by western society and storytellers, but having the opportunity to witness and appreciate the vibrant and alluring culture was life-giving.

The children I met in Ghana were the happiest I had ever encountered in my life. Most of the time I forgot I was even at an orphanage. Joy literally beamed from their smiles. The sound of their laughter radiated hope. My desire for when I left was for the kids to have felt loved and seen and known during our time there. I did not anticipate how much the kids would teach me. Through their lives, I saw the beauty and hope of humanity despite hardships they have had to endure.

During our time in Ghana, we were able to visit Cape Coast where we spent a night exploring the city and visited the Cape Coast Slave castle the next day. This experience was very somber and raw for me. Seeing what my ancestors had to endure brought up a lot of thoughts and emotions I had to process. We also had the opportunity to do the Privilege Walk and talk about colonialism during our reflections. These times were really important in my personal development and understanding my own identity. Learning more about myself in this context and in this country was so impactful in making me love who I am and where I come from even more than when I had arrived.

I had such a great community while in Ghana. Through this experience, I had a lot of thoughts I was processing and it was so encouraging to have people to work through those things with. Through reflection times I learned through my fellow volunteers as we opened up about our experiences. The staff of The Akumanyi Foundation work so hard and have such big hearts for others. A big part of my transformational experience was witnessing the passion for others that the staff for the foundation and the children’s home had. They were so selfless and had great ambition for what the children’s future could look like, and they did everything in their power to make that happen day in and day out. I was left feeling challenged to be intentional and do more in my serving to impact lives.

This project of serving a community of women and children in Ghana fulfilled one of my passions of caring for others. This opportunity allowed me to engage with another culture, challenge my own perspectives, and expand my open-mindedness. Going abroad to Ghana and experiencing another way of life helped me to assess what is truly important to me in life. I was able to embrace my African roots which helped enhance my personal growth. Encountering a “different” group of people made it so evident how similar people actually are. It was such a privilege and honor having the opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes and serve such an amazing community.