Suncoast students traveled far to extend their helping hands.

November 9, 2016

Outreach programs have increasingly grown in popularity for high school students as they begin to feel the desire to make a difference in the world and because of the extra boost they provide on college applications. Outreach is any activity in which volunteers provide services to those who otherwise may not have access to them. The central idea in outreach programs is that volunteers meet those in need. In Palm Beach County, there are a number of different outreach programs that promote the success and wellbeing of the community. For example, Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) members go to known places where homeless people often congregate and facilitate friendly conversation to complete an assessment and determine whether the people are eligible for assistance. Another program, Teen Outreach Program (TOP), focuses on reducing teen pregnancy, lowering the risk of suspension and promoting safety, health and education in adolescents and young adults using a teen club model.
Although the government places great emphasis and allots numerous resources to help those in need to have access to basic services, there is often a gap in the system and many people are left out. Through a number of different non-governmental organizations (often nonprofit), students have been given the opportunity to fill this gap and help the less fortunate. As one student gets involved in a program, that student raises awareness and further advances the progress of a particular program.
These types of programs have proven to be invaluable to both the people who benefit from the services provided and the volunteers. Alongside the benefit to those in need, outreach programs also serve as an educational tool for volunteers. Through an active presence in outreach programs, students are offered an experience that cannot be obtained elsewhere and exposure to a world opposite their own that they are not regularly exposed to.
Summer is the perfect time for students, who are momentarily relieved of school, to commit their time and energy into providing services. This past summer, several students traveled great lengths, as far as India, in order to offer their hands to help.
Olivia Schmidt, an MSE junior, traveled to Bolivia along with nine other girls and spent eight days in a life center for boys rescued from abuse and abandonment. In addition to this, she and her group visited different villages and put their efforts into programs for children on the streets to teach them to understand that, regardless of the situation they are in and if they are afraid, they are always loved and will never be alone. For Schmidt, the most memorable moment of her mission trip that made a strong lasting impact was her time visiting and getting to know single mothers and providing them with care packages.
MSE Senior, Gabrielle Lonsberry, along with a group of adults and nursing students from her church, traveled to Salem, India, on a medical mission trip. For 12 days, the group taught seminars at local colleges and were involved in pediatric medical camps. Lonsberry functioned as an extra hand for the doctors, responsible for taking the vitals of the children and setting up medical records. She also served as part of the consultation group with deciding on how to treat the kids. The reward she gained from her experience is that she feels she gave the kids with serious diseases and/or injuries hope that things will not always be the way they are and that they will get better. Bringing the focus back to the point that outreach programs expose people to new cultures and knowledge about a new world, during her time in India, she fell in love with the people and the country and her experience solidified her decision to major in biomedical engineering in college.
These two girls exemplify the concept of taking time out of their life to help the community. As MSE students, during the school year, their lives are revolved around calculus and physics; even with this strict schedule, they still have time for sports and weekly community outreach in the form of Urban Youth League.

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