Students volunteer nearly 1,300 hours on Community Service Days
August 22, 2018
By Greg Peters
Just days before the first textbooks were cracked, laptops booted up and white coats were donned, students from the three schools at the University of Kansas Medical Center took to the streets of Wyandotte County to give of their time and energy as part of Community Service Days - a medical center tradition.
Two days each summer are designated by KU Medical Center as times before classes officially start for students in the schools of Health Professions, Medicine and Nursing to pull on their blue T-shirts adorned on the front with "We Are KU" and give a few hours of energy and elbow grease to the community where they will be living, learning and working during the next few years. The M1 Community Service Day falls in July during the new medical students' first week on campus. The Community Service Day for the schools of Health Professions and Nursing follows in August as part of the annual Hawk Week celebration.
Members of this year's volunteer brigades on M1 Community Service Day, grabbed paint brushes, lawn mowers, weed whackers and mops to help bring a smile to Kansas City, Kansas, residents and community organizers in need of a helping hand. It was an especially meaningful day for John Perez who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, graduating from Sumner Academy.
"I've wanted to do medicine since middle school when my grandma had to have bypass surgery," said Perez, a University of Nebraska graduate who was volunteering for the painting and cleanup project at Young Women on the Move. "That piqued my interest and I started volunteering and eventually got my EMT license.
"During one of my 24-hour rotations we had to do CPR in the back of a moving ambulance. He was blue in the face when we got there, but when we left the hospital he had a pulse and was breathing on his own. We actually brought somebody back to life on the way to the hospital."
On July 25, just two days before their White Coat Ceremony marking their official entry into medical school, 176 students received their welcome to life as part of the medical center community by volunteering for 704 hours at 10 agencies across Wyandotte County - a financial equivalent of more than $17,000. Their jobs ranged from pulling weeds and harvesting vegetables to painting houses, packing toiletries and cleaning up clutter to getting rid of unwanted items coated with dust from years of neglect.
"Today is an awesome opportunity to connect with people from the local community and get involved in it," said Mary Fischer, a first-year medical student from Fort Scott, who was working with the Shepherd Center to haul away junk from a residence. "This community is going to help us train in their city with them as our patients, so being able to help them in a non-medical capacity while we are still learning the medical field is a really cool opportunity."
"I was blessed with a servant's heart, and that is something that is important to me," said Hannah Gillespie from Grainfield during a break from prepping a mural in Rosedale for a fresh coat of paint. "Physicians are important people in every community, and they have to wear multiple hats, and a volunteer and a servant are just some of their roles."
Just weeks later, a typical hot and sweaty Kansas summer morning greeted some 143 volunteers on Aug. 16 as students from the schools of Health Professions and Nursing fanned out across Wyandotte County for a day of service to the community. The second Community Service Day is a Hawk Week tradition and takes place each year the day before the School of Nursing's Nightingale Ceremony - the formal pinning and white coating event that officially kicks off the academic year for first-year students.
"We are here as a group is to show the community that KU is here for them," said Kevin Floyd, a first-year nursing student from Bonner Springs during a break from working in the community garden at 45th and Rainbow Boulevard. "It's important for KU to send the students out here because a lot of the students are not from Kansas City, and they don't know what it's like to live in Wyandotte County and the Rosedale area. I work in the University of Kansas Hospital ER, and I see a lot of the neighborhood people because they have to use the ER for their primary care."
On this Community Service Day, volunteers tallied a total of 572 volunteer hours, working for 10 agencies across Greater Kansas City, Kansas. This is the financial equivalent of more than $14,000 given to the community. All told, 319 KU Medical Center students volunteered nearly 1,300 during the two community service days, or roughly $31,500 worth of labor donated to agencies in Wyandotte County.
"This is hard work. but it's great," said Eric Strick, a clinical laboratory science student from Basehor, who was working in the garden at Cross-Lines Community Outreach. "Actually, I never knew about Cross-Lines before this. I drove by here every day on the way to work, but I never even knew this was a community garden, so this is really cool. I am actually thinking about donating some clothes to this place afterwards, maybe come canned goods because they are just right on the way, and it's super easy."
"I felt like I needed to do something this week, and this was something good to do in the community," said Jessica Gamble, a senior nursing student from Springfield, Mo., who has two grandmothers that are nurses. "If I get an opportunity to help someone, I do so. The biggest reason for going into nursing is that I love helping people."
Kay Hawes and Kristi Birch contributed to this story