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The Richter Center Ambassadors

The student group for the Jan & Bud Richter Center at Fresno State

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St. Agnes Medical Center

Reflecting on Service: Through the Eyes of a Premedical Student

I wanted to reflect on my year of service and how the Ambassador program changed my perception of what service is. Before being a part of the Ambassador program, my service was limited to working in medical or clinical settings. For three years, I have been an active volunteer with the Saint Agnes Volunteer program. Working in a hospital setting allowed me to interact with people from different paths, incomes, and social/economic classes. However as time went on, I worried that I wasn’t making as much of an impact as I knew I could.

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This led me to branch out and use service to explore and connect with different people. For the past month, I’ve been alternating working with Every Neighborhood Partnership’s Saturday Sports at Lincoln Elementary, Stellar Science at Fresno State, and passing out sandwiches to homeless people on the East side of Fresno. I was astounded by how eager people are to connect and share their pain, joy, and lives! Connecting with the homeless in east and downtown Fresno has given me so much insight on how other people make do with what they have. Simply taking an hour or two of my time has formed relationships with people I would never have in a hospital setting.

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Since medicine is my future career, working in other service avenues gives me skills and experiences that will definitely be invaluable to me as I continue on my path. I will have greater knowledge of the needs of different parts of the community as well as an understanding of how to best serve my patients.

If you are interested in working with any of the volunteer services I’ve mentioned, please check these links!

Saint Agnes Volunteering: http://www.samc.com/volunteering

Saturday Sports: http://everyneighborhood.org/process/#step-1

Passing out sandwiches: I wasn’t involved with an organization persay; I went to Walmart and bought PB&J sandwich supplies, encouraged my sisters to help me make and pack them and we drove around Fresno and passed them out! I highly encourage a buddy system if you would want to do this.

Stellar Science: https://sites.google.com/site/natscicsuf/events/stellar-science

How do you serve? Can you see your impact?

~Ambassador Shola

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A Fortunate Meeting

Philip Levine Photo credit: Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Philip Levine. Photo credit: Jim Wilson/ New York Times

It’s curious sometimes just how quickly interesting people can come and go in one’s life, and even more compelling how service can provide a framework for these exchanges. This is how I felt upon meeting Mr. Philip Levine.

It was early and gray the morning of January 23, 2015. I was fresh off my Fiji trip with that new joy for service in my soul. I was determined to share some of it as I went from room to room taking meal orders in my classy volunteer garb. Every time I volunteer at St. Agnes I meet at least one person who likes to stop and share advice or stories between meal-planning, and this day, it was Philip Levine. He seemed to be just an average patient, but he intrigued me somehow.

After we’d planned his simple meal, we somehow got on the subject of travel, or perhaps culture first, I can’t remember. I told him a bit about serving in Fiji, and he nonchalantly mentioned all the places he’s been (which were so many I can hardly recall them now). I’m 100% Portuguese, and so he told me tales of the beauty of Portugal, and highly recommended that I travel there. He collaborated with a Portuguese man on a book of poetry once. “You’re a POET?!” I exclaimed, a little too excitedly, “where can I buy some of your works?” (His heart would begin to beat too hard at intervals, and he’d have to stop, breathe, and rest for a few minutes, the pulsing in his neck was visible and very rapid, but I was patient. I felt that I brought a bit too much energy.) He said no need, and he gave me one of his books on the spot! It was titled “News of the World.” He continued his story, but throughout, casually mentioned prizes, professorships, etc., as I marveled at his achievements and humility. He was a Pulitzer Prize winner and a professor emeritus at Fresno State, to name a few contributions. I was so inspired. I cracked open the book, and found a voice for the average soul, and in some particular ones, the Fresno soul. I asked him to sign it, and he did, although it was a visible struggle. I thanked him, and we chatted a bit more, but soon I could see he needed rest and I needed to curb my curiosity. I bid him good bye and get well.

Levine Inspiration

Sometimes, you walk out of a hospital room subconsciously accepting that you will probably never see a person again, whether by healing and return to the daily grind or by the final departure. Other times, it hits you.

It wasn’t until after he passed a few weeks ago that I learned just how influential Mr. Levine really was to Fresno State and the realm of poetry. How fortunate I was to chance to meet the man! He used his gift to turn our Fresno experience into art–a service indeed. He enjoyed jazz music, and collaborated with Dr. Benjamin Boone, a professor with a wonderful commitment to service-learning, in setting some of his works to music. The project is just about done, you can listen to some tracks here.  Dr. Boone described him as “spontaneous,” and said Levine “had a confidence in his work–in art–in our project that was refreshing.” I would have loved to have Levine as a professor here at Fresno State.

Service has brought me to bizarre places, introduced me to incredible people, and filled my life with so much meaning. This is just one instance of amazing learning and a fun connection I was given through first my excitement surrounding service abroad, and my actual presence as a St. Agnes volunteer. I won’t soon forget my fortunately-timed meeting with Philip Levine and his quiet, confident love of poetry that is such a beautiful contribution to our community.

Have you ever made an unforgettable connection at a service opportunity? Who has inspired you?

~Ambassador Lilliana

My Service at St. Agnes Medical Center

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“On a mission to heal mind, body, and spirit” – St. Agnes Medical Center

I have always  been fascinated about the idea of volunteering in a hospital, and this summer I decided to do something about it! One of our former Ambassadors, Daniel, submitted a blog post about the wonders of a long-term service project and really inspired me to commit to this one. I chose to apply to the volunteer program at St. Agnes Medical Center here in Fresno. Because three of my younger brothers were born there, St. Agnes has always been a magical place to me, reminding me of warm sisterly memories and new life! I have a few close friends who volunteer there or have volunteered there in the past. Also, as a Speech-Language Pathology major, I may choose to work in the hospital setting someday, so gaining experience would be beneficial.

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Excellent service is a must at St. Agnes!
I applied and was promptly contacted by the service coordinator who informed me of an upcoming orientation. A group of wise, energetic ladies trained me, and I was inspired by their stories of life-long service.
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What’s on the menu today?

After receiving my fancy badge,  I chose the section of the hospital where I would like to volunteer. I began in Nutrition Services, where I use a tablet to collect menu orders from patients.The fabulous diet clerks Wanda and Debbie direct me to the section of the hospital that needs to be addressed, and I cheerily go room-to-room taking orders. I have found that I absolutely LOVE the patient contact. I get the whole range of patients, from the older gentlemen discussing the healing powers of apple pie, to awesome women who have just popped out babies and need to renew their energy! Countless times, I have long talks with  patients, giving them a chance to visit (or vent), and gaining invaluable advice.

Because I loved volunteering so much, I decided to take on another role in another part of the hospital: the patient escort service! St. Agnes Hospital is a maze. Patients really appreciate being led to important destinations like waiting rooms for surgical procedures, testing services, MRI’s, and more. I can reassure them before their procedure, whether with interesting hospital info or kind small-talk, or even just lend them a smile. The people who work at patient admissions have adopted me, and I feel very supported and helpful in this position as well.

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Hello! May I escort you? At the very least, take a smile; they’re free!
Perhaps you feel called to volunteer in a hospital? Let me share some benefits: first of all, the super cute and comfortable outfit, official name badge with hospital codes and more (so you’re in the know), you get the ability to pick your time and station that you’d like to serve at, and most importantly, you are an integral part of the patients’ experience. I absolutely love volunteering at St. Agnes, and look forward to a long term of service!
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The chapel at St. Agnes is a perfect place for quiet reflection on service done well.
Consider volunteering with me! Check out the volunteer website for more information, or contact Cathy Mayer, the volunteer coordinator, at cathy.mayer@samc.com with more specific questions.
How do you think volunteers can help make hospital stays more cheerful experiences?
Where would you be willing to commit to a long-term service project? What gets you excited to serve?
~Ambassador Lilliana

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