Summer of Service for Military Teens

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By Mark Walker

“JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD – STAT!”

More than two dozen teenage Red Cross volunteers became accustomed to that call for an immediate response and similar messages at Madigan Army Medical Center this summer. Teens taking part in the Red Cross summer youth program on the Tacoma area base work in nine hospital departments, gaining invaluable hands-on experience supporting a military medical facility.

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Audrey Snedecor

Just ask 17-year-old Audrey Snedecor, who has worked in an array of departments at the sprawling hospital, the Army’s second largest medical treatment facility. She and the other teens wrote essays on how military affects them as part of their application process before being tapped.

“It’s been a great experience,” said Audrey, the daughter of Air Force veteran parents. “You really have the chance to become part of the team – it’s a great confidence builder.”

When the team prepping for a procedure needs something, the volunteers snap to.

“You have to be responsible and come out of your shell,” said Audrey, who will be a senior at Steilacoom High School this fall. “If the team you’re working with needs something, you have to have the confidence you can go get it – they won’t hold your hand.”

Working 20 to 30 hours per week, the cadre of teen volunteers from military families also receive lessons in coping with stresses from frequent moves and having a parent deployed.

Sarah Jacob
Sarah Jacob

“Our volunteers get a variety of real-world experience and the chance to give back to the military community that has always been part of their lives,” said Sarah Jacob, who oversees the program in conjunction with Madigan officials.

Jacob, a Red Cross Armed Forces Regional Program Specialist, said managing the 23 teen volunteers in the eight-week program is rewarding, and challenging.

“They aren’t afraid to ask questions, and they really keep you on your toes,” she said.

Audrey wants to be a veterinarian, and she hasn’t exactly been a shrinking violet.

“When I worked in pathology we dealt with a variety of samples and I got to hold a colon,” she said.

Applicants to the base’s Red Cross Summer Youth Program begin the process leading up to their selection in February and must have a nominating letter from one of their teachers.

IMG_0420Audrey, whose newfound skills also now include reading X-rays, encourages military family teens to check out the program, which is posted on the @JBLMRedCross Facebook page.

“It’s real life,” she said.

For information on the Red Cross Summer Youth Program at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, contact Sarah Jacob: sarah.jacob2@redcross.org 

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