Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Why I Volunteer

Name: Abigail Gordon
From: Albuquerque , New Mexico
Grade: 12
School: Sandia High School
Votes: 0

One Thursday afternoon about two years ago, my mom dragged me to the Social
Security office in downtown Albuquerque. Due to my mother’s recent
divorce, we had to file for my new social security card because my
last name had changed. We sat down on two of the remaining blue
canvas chairs and watched the room overflow with extended
families—little children to grandparents. I had never been to an
office like this before. I was surprised by the dozens of people who
were waiting that day; I could tell by the looks on their faces that
most of them had been here before and these visits weren’t easy for
them. I knew that many people in Albuquerque needed help, but I
didn’t fully realize the extent of those needs until that day.
Helping others has always been the central reason I do most things
but those faces confirmed my aspiration to create change.

When I was little, my mother worked with families dealing with
domestic violence in the juvenile court system. My dad had died when
I was two, so my mother had to raise me and my two brothers. Even
though she was a single mom with three kids in three different
schools, she saw in her work that even though we had our own
struggles, the four of us still had it better than many. Each week
she took us to her job at the juvenile center to run errands or check
people in at the door. She didn’t need us as child labor; she
wanted us to give back to our community (and avoid us showing up as
clients). We also participated in community service in other parts of
Albuquerque. I recall vividly one year when I was eight years old and
we volunteered at the The Storehouse Food Bank around Thanksgiving.
The room was set up like a mini-grocery store. Folks in difficult
situations received a number of tickets based on their needs and then
chose items to place in their carts. My mom and I were in charge of
balloons and canned goods. No one really wanted the balloons, so I
switched to peanut butter. A chilly-looking elderly lady came up to
me, and I handed her a jar of peanut butter just like I had many
times already. However, instead of just saying thank you, her
eyes welled up. I didn’t realize that a simple jar of peanut butter
could move someone like that. That moment has fueled my desire to
help others to this day.

This year I’ve been working for seven hours each Thursday at the Veteran
Affairs hospital adjacent to Kirtland Air Force Base. I leave my IB
High Level World Topics class and race across town to get to my job
in the Patient Escort Office where I wait for the first of my hundred
or so calls. On any given day, I transport patients on stretchers
from the ER to the CT X-Ray Department or in wheelchairs if I’m
discharging them from the hospital. Not only do I love being useful
in the day to day operations of the VA, I like talking to my coworker
Tom about joining the Air Force at 18 and starting his own electrical
business at 40. “It’s never too late,” he tells me after
everyone else has clocked out. After I discharge a patient
post-surgery, the thankful wives often tear up just like the lady did
when I was 8.

I can’t see my life without service. My goal is to study political
science so I can create policy that helps enhance of lives of those
people like those in that Social Security office and The Storehouse.
Eventually, I’d like be part of a national movement but for now, I
look forward to finding a new VA in my college community where I can
leave the lecture hall to race across town to push some wheelchairs.

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