Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Preparing For The Unthinkable

Name: Kira Sweetman
From: Arlington, VA
Votes: 0

For The Unthinkable

Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is the volunteer
organization closest to my heart. It is a national organization that
trains civilians in triage, basic search and rescue, life-saving
first aid, disaster psychology, and other skills necessary to assist
their communities during a Mass Casualty Incident (think flood, bomb,
apocalypse, etc.) I found out about CERT from my father’s
participation, but I joined because I wanted to be prepared if the
unthinkable (yet totally thinkable) happened. After I completed the
40 hour “basic training” course and completed two FEMA classes, I
became the youngest Active Duty member on the Arlington CERT Team.

minimum requirements for an Active Duty member consist of attending
one neighborhood- and one county-wide event a year, but I always seem
to surpass that by taking advantage of almost every opportunity
offered by team leadership. During those times, I’ve trained new
members and served as a role player during training classes; helped
run multiple refresher courses for current members; trained members
to make triage tape organizers; and learned the art of moulage
(casualty makeup) to apply onto role players at the Reagan National
Airport training exercise (our CERT provided over 100 volunteers,
most of whom needed makeup done.) On average, I contribute about 4
hours per month to CERT activities.

biggest challenge in volunteering with CERT has been dealing with
people’s assumptions about my knowledge or capabilities both because
I am so young and because I am a girl. In my other volunteer
endeavors, I’ve always been with other teens. Whether for Girl
Scouts or school, organizations always request to have teen
volunteers and aren’t surprised when we show up. But with CERT that
is not the case. One has to be 18 to take the training or 16 if a
parent attends classes with you. The mature nature of the content,
especially in dealing with death and stressful settings, does not
lend itself well to the younger set. Ergo, other members are
generally surprised when they see me at meetings, assuming that I’m
just accompanying my father. I’ve been asked by the head of the
Arlington CERT Team to run certain stations or activities during
meetings, and older members tend to ignore my directions (leading one
person to cut their finger with an x-acto knife) or assume that there
is no possibility that I could know something that they don’t. It
took me a long time to not be discouraged by this; but because I
persevered in my work, I’ve embraced my confidence and proceed
determined to lead.

addition to boosting my confidence, training others has also given me
immense satisfaction. I have served as a mock patient in many
disaster scenarios to help new recruits learn about the triage system
and the medical assessment we perform on a patient. This enabled me
to see the direct impact that I could have on others. If I didn’t
correct them, it could lead to a fatal mistake in the future. It
helped refine my leadership skills as well. Correcting people without
making them feel stupid is a tricky tightrope to walk, especially
when working with someone much older, but CERT has given me the
confidence to speak up when I know that something is not right.

has taught me many skills that will help me in my endeavors in the
future. Staying calm under pressure and being resourceful are vital
to help me succeed not only on my quest to become a doctor, but also
in my everyday life. With natural disasters becoming more and more
prevalent, I will continue my training with CERT to know how best to
respond to them. This to me is “forward looking” because it is
hypothesizing about the future happenings and acting accordingly. I
would love to help with rescue efforts globally every time there is a
natural disaster but that just isn’t feasible. It would be greatly
beneficial for communities that are vulnerable to such disasters to
offer basic disaster preparedness in schools. Teenagers are some of
the most able-bodied citizens our country has; and I would love to
start a program utilizing that potential to increase our response to
a man-made or natural disaster.

believe that my work with CERT will be relevant far into the future.
Even if I do not get to assist anyone in an emergency during my time
with Arlington CERT, I have helped train multiple classes of new
recruits who will send positive ripples into the pond of society. My
volunteer work has also made an impact on my future. CERT inspired me
to take EMT classes and I will be taking my certification class this
summer. I hope to be able to help people when they need it the most
for many years to come.

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