September 25, 2012

How Volunteerism Impacted My Life



     My husband Monte and I recently spent a weekend in Lancaster, New York. On Sunday morning we decided to attend University Methodist Church on Bailey Avenue in Buffalo, not far from the State University of New York. Monte was a professor there when we met, and I was a non-traditional student. We attended this church our marriage.

     After the service we drove along Bailey Avenue, which passed between the University and the Veteran’s Hospital. During my years as a student at Kensington High School I volunteered there, spending my time washing test tubes at a sink at the end of a laboratory counter. I don’t recall how long I did this.

My next volunteer job was at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute patient library. I rolled a cart to patient rooms and helped the patient choose reading material. I also sat in the library to serve patrons, both patient, visitors, and staff.

This job coincided with the volunteer work I performed at the Kensington High School library, where I put into service my knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System and learned about library functions.

This volunteer work made a difference in my life.

In my junior year of high school I applied for a high school summer fellowship at Roswell Park Memorial Institute. My resume—of course, short, due to my short life—included these volunteer positions.

It also included a reference from Mr. Militello, my physics teacher (isn’t it ironic that I ended up wed to a physics professor?). His lessons included teaching my class how to use a slide rule. During one exam he announced that he would grade the papers of the students using the slide rule differently from those using straight math. I chose to use the slide rule. My paper came back with a very low grade—slide rules don’t give exact mathematical answers. Mr. Militello must not have expected me to use the slide rule, and upgraded my test to an A after I informed him I did. That I used the slide rule must have impressed him.

I must believe that my application to Roswell Park, which demonstrated my community service and my willingness to take on a challenge, was accepted based on these two factors. The competition for this prestigious fellowship was stiff. My classroom grades didn’t reflect the I. Q. level of the typical gifted student receiving the grant. I knew, at the beginning of the first lecture in the program, that the work was way beyond my capabilities.

I was accepted into the first medical laboratory class at Erie County Technical Institute (Williamsville, New York). While there I was accepted as a student employee at the library. I also spent a summer working at Millard Fillmore Hospital’s medical library. I have to believe a large part of those acceptances were based on my hospital volunteerism.

The point of this dissertation is to point out that volunteering is important, especially to young people. It implies several things important to educational and job application reviewers:

  • That the person is willing to invest      themselves in their community
  • That the person is willing to give back
  • That the person is committed
  • That the person visions a life beyond      self

Simply having the Roswell Park Memorial Institute grant listed on my first job resume played a huge factor in my receiving the position of laboratory technician in the pathology department at Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. It jump-started my work life.

Volunteerism, which extended into my adult life, has contributed much to my work and to enhance my values. It’s led to a grant to develop in-home child care, grants for family support programs, and a Children’s Trust Fund grant to prevent child abuse. Volunteering at Red Cross blood bank drives taught my children to give—both became donors as their birthdays pronounced them eligible. Volunteering at food banks and recycling centers has supported my views of being responsible for others and for the earth. And, it was influential in my receiving a short-term part-time job at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville.

I urge each and every teenager to become a volunteer. And it’s not too late adults who do not have a history of volunteering to widen their horizons in the volunteering world.



Jasper Milquetoast: Precious Stone, Physics Teacher

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