Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – The Most Valuable Use of My Time

Name: Carrie Smith
From: Indiana, Pennsylvania
Grade: 11
School: Indiana Area Senior High School
Votes: 0

My first exposure to volunteering was through the National Multiple
Sclerosis Society. My reasoning for starting my volunteerism was
purely to benefit my family. My mother was diagnosed with Multiple
Sclerosis in 2002. Of course, better understanding, better medicine,
and more research was something my whole family wished for. I felt I
could do my part by helping raise money for Multiple Sclerosis
through walks and read-a-thons. For walks, I would lead teams in
raising money. Over the years, I have raised over $6000 for multiple
sclerosis. Through all these events, seeing how much this disease
impacted others more than my mother brought light to the fact that I
wanted to raise this money for everyone that was affected by the
disease, not for just my family. This realization opened my heart to
volunteerism in all aspects.

Most recently, I have started volunteering at Torrance State Mental
Hospital twice a week for one and a half hours each visit. I started
volunteering here because I was considering going into the medical
field. Through a shadowing experience, I found that I had an interest
in these often forgotten patients. As a volunteer, I spend
recreational time with patients. I play games, watch movies, hand out
snacks, and simply let the patients have someone other than a doctor
to converse with and confide in, which is what they most enjoy. The
most challenging part about my volunteerism is coming to grips with
the patients’ realities. This experience has given me the
opportunity to be able to look into the histories and medical
backgrounds of patients. It is difficult to know what these patients
have endured and know what to say to them when they confide in me.
But because of this difficulty, I have come to learn that everyone,
even if they don’t want one at first, needs a friend. There is no
circumstance in which a person is undeserving of someone to confide
in as a friend. Knowing that I am that safe haven for some patients
is what makes me know I am spending my time in the right place. I
know that I am one of the only people that some patients feel
comfortable with because I am constantly being asked when I will be
back and reassuring them that I will return soon. If I came back in
my future years, I know that these patients with whom I’ve
interacted will still be more self confident than when I first met

Although more than anything this volunteerism has taught me life lessons, it has also
taught me about myself and guided me in figuring out what I want to
do with my life. I know I will do something to benefit others because
creating happiness in others’ lives is what brings true happiness
to my life. So through this volunteering and possibility of turning
it into a career as a psychiatrist, I strive to change the public
opinion of the mentally insane because they deserve friends too.

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