By Stephenie TatumSeptember 26, 2008
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Brizee Washington loves helping people and making a difference. When she first signed up for the American Red Cross Summer Youth Program she didn't realize she would enjoy it as much as she did. Washington hoped to volunteer and learn what the job of a physical therapist entails. Not only was she successful in learning what a PT does, she and 75 other youths learned valuable life's lessons, skills and knowledge while serving the Fort Bragg community.
The summer youth program ran from June 16 until Aug. 8 at Womack Army Medical Center. Youths ages 13 to 17 from communities around Fort Bragg were required to submit an application and essay to the WAMC American Red Cross office prior to being accepted into the summer program.
"Most of the youths knew they wanted to be in the medical field, they were just unsure of where. We placed them in areas based on their packet. It is a wonderful opportunity for the kids and allows them to be in the environment they are interested in," said LaDona Lane, WAMC American Red Cross Summer Youth Program advisor.
Washington couldn't agree more. "My experience with the Red Cross Volunteer Program was a very great opportunity. I've learned so much but the most important to me was that if you could help someone in need you should. Everyone needs someone," she said.
The youth volunteers assisted in 42 areas across the post accomplish their mission by booking appointments, running labs, observing in general surgery and veterinary clinics, assisting medical staff, performing clerical and record keeping duties and the list goes on. The youths learned a variety of important jobs during their time at WAMC, but all learned commitment, dependability and responsibility that will benefit them long after their summer is over.
"The skills that they took home with them are valuable throughout life," said Lane.
Not only did the youths benefit from the summer program, so did WAMC. The youth volunteered about 6,350 hours, saving Womack Army Medical Center about $63,000.
Joshua Walker, 14, a ninth grader at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, volunteered the most hours of the group. He logged 205 hours and was awarded a certificate of appreciation for his contribution to making a difference.
Washington said she also was happy to participate in the summer program and plans to continue volunteering in the future.
"It feels great to know that you could make a difference in someone's life, even if it was in a small way," said Washington. She also added, "During the summer youth program, I celebrated my 18th birthday. Immediately after the program ended that very same day I signed up again as an adult volunteer. I hope to continue as long as I can."
In addition to the summer program, the American Red Cross also offers a year-round youth volunteer program. To become a youth volunteer, those interested must submit an application and essay and the parent and youth must attend a four-hour orientation at Weaver Auditorium in WAMC. This covers hospital and Red Cross policies, infectious control and health and safety standards. Youths must also process through the hospital and ensure all immunizations are up-to-date.
To join the more than 186,000 Red Cross youth volunteers nationwide or for more information about the American Red Cross, call 907-7124, 396-1231, stop by the Fort Bragg/Pope Air Force Base American Red Cross office at 1-1139 Macomb and Hamilton streets on Fort Bragg or go to the Web site at www.bragg.army.mil/redcross/default.htm.