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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Youth Volunteers Give Back to Community and Gain Valuable Experience


by Kyle Fiehler

Matthew Schramm, 17, is into saving people. On top of being a three-summer veteran of Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital volunteer program, he works as a lifeguard and ultimately thinks he would like to pursue a career in medicine. He may even become a pharmacist, though he wasn’t considering that exact field before he started working at Evans.

Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) volunteer program is designed to give 14 to 17-year-olds from military families a glimpse into the health professions and a way to give back to the very communities from which they come. It’s “a mutually beneficial program,” according to Gaby Skovira, Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager and Red Cross liaison for the program, where young Red Cross volunteers can contribute to the organization’s mission of service to the Armed Forces and in return are able to “try on” careers in the medical field to determine whether or not they would like to pursue one themselves.

Matthew Schramm is flanked by his mother, Deborah  and two
members of the Daughters of the American Revolution who
recognized him for his volunteer work in 2014.
For the Evans Army Community Hospital, the summer program provides some administrative relief during an especially busy time, when many families are either transferring on or off the post and children are getting physicals completed. Schramm, who began working in the pharmacy due to its perpetual need for more volunteers, has found that he’s able to contribute much more there than he was while working in same-day surgery. As one of the program’s more seasoned participants, he’s able to fill prescriptions while under supervision and mentor younger volunteers. The immensity of this responsibility is not lost on him.

“It’s so organized there and so awesome how everyone works together,” Schramm said of working in the pharmacy. He also loves the feeling of giving back to the veterans that stop by for their medicine. “I’m not doing that much, but in their eyes I’m doing everything for them. It always brings a smile to their faces.”

According to Skovira, for military families prone to relocating, the program also provides teens with an avenue for earning professional experience that takes their background into account and doesn’t rely on the beginnings of a professional network for landing an internship.

It offers the teens experience in everything from interviewing for a position (a mandatory precursor to placement), to setting up patient rooms, transporting patients and lab specimens and helping out with filing, the front desk and answering phones. “We treat them like adults,” Skovira said, “and they know there are certain requirements for them in order to be a part of the program.”

Students learn CPR and AED at the Heartsaver training
for EACH Youth Volunteers. Photo by Joe Coleman
Clara Huff, a retired nurse and current Red Cross volunteer lead for the program, has seen its enrollment jump from about 25 students to close to 40 in the eight years she’s been involved in the program.

Schramm is perhaps more practical than most kids his age when deciding on his plans for after high school and the program. He has the ability to run track at the collegiate level, but he knows that would leave little time for pharmacy school. He would like to move to California, but thinks he’ll end up opting for in-state tuition and a Colorado school. He has some tough decisions ahead of him, but a promising future and already some incredible work experience.

An EACH Youth Volunteer practices
infant CPR at the Heartsaver training.
Photo by Joe Coleman
A new "crop" of young volunteers had their first week at the Fort Carson recently. The first week is all about training, expectations and orientation. It included briefings and discussions about possible assignments and ended with the students learning how save a life with CPR and AED training. This year there are 42 registered EACH Youth Volunteers who will contribute close to 5000 hours of volunteer service at the hospital.

For these volunteers the possibilities are endless as they learn about giving back to their community, supporting the military and developing new skills that will be with them forever.

The EACH Fort Carson Youth Volunteer program is opened at the end of each school year. Applicants must have access to Fort Carson. If you would like to learn more about Fort Carson’s Evans Army Community Hospital volunteer program, whether as an adult supervisor (with or without medical credentials), or as a youth volunteer you can contact Gaby Skovira at Gabrielle.Skovira@redcross.org.

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