Apr 6 2012
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Community Service: Reaching Out to Others to Learn More About Yourself

By Danielle Reade, BS, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholar at New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, which was recently highlighted by NCIN as an exemplar of incorporating community service for scholars in the school’s accelerated degree program

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I felt the pressure build as I began the one-year accelerated nursing program at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU). I was fearful and thought, “How could I make it through this program in one piece?” As a recipient of an NCIN scholarship, this honor also brought a responsibility to positively represent the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through my volunteer work in the community. I wondered, “How would I be able to add this responsibility to my academic commitments?”

That fear is now a thing of the past. Over the last seven months, my community service involvement has increased from only one activity per month to two or three. It has brought me closer to my classmates, enabling me to use team synergy to make a difference in the community while growing in my academic performance.

I feel helping the community and becoming a unit with my fellow classmates is an experience I will always take with me. In the nursing profession, it is so important to work together and help others who are in need. I consider one of the lessons learned was how to work together most effectively to find a volunteer option we were all interested in accomplishing, and ensuring the group effort makes the biggest impact.

Some volunteer activities such as arts and crafts at Bright Side Manor challenged us to be innovative in creating our own arts and crafts activities that were fun, useful and easy for the elderly residents to construct on their own. Another example, which was one of my favorite activities, was coming together to make a meal for HIV/AIDS patients at the Robert A. Harrison House. Here we did research to find the most beneficial and healthiest meal that the residents would enjoy. A more recent event is our participation in the soup kitchen at the Oasis Haven for Women and Children. This experience had a more direct impact on us, as we saw the faces of hungry women and children brighten as they were served fresh meals.

Coming soon is our biggest volunteering event, Relay for Life. This event helps raise money for those battling cancer and assists the American Cancer Society in finding a cure. In preparation, we joined the kick-off to encourage people at FDU and within the community to participate in the all-day event. After helping set up, our job was to gather people to join a team and decorate/light the luminaries in honor of those who battled cancer. We felt incredibly blessed to be part of such an emotional and moving event. With our team, The Caregivers, we look forward to continuing to the main event and, as the American Cancer Society states, to “create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

With all the experience I have gained, I am so appreciative and fortunate to be an NCIN scholar. My invaluable experience assisting others in the community has provided me with intangible skills that I look forward to utilizing in my future nursing career.

Tags: Nurses, Community outreach, Volunteers, New Jersey (NJ) NJ, Human Capital, Leadership Development, New Careers in Nursing, Nursing, Voices from the Field