By Lisa Ballou
Photos by Bill Bramswig
Sure there’s pizza and the buzz of adolescence, but Tuesday nights are anything but typical for the 19 teenagers who currently make up the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps’ Youth Corps.
As they gather at the headquarters for their weekly meeting, there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement; it becomes clear that this is no ordinary group of teenagers. It’s a distinctive, diverse group, most of whom have joined the Youth Corps to serve our community and to make a difference.
Youth Corps Member Harjup Singh explained, “I volunteered so that I can help people that are in distress, and help protect our community too.”
“It is exposure to situations you can’t get anywhere else,” added Hailey Rosenthal. “I love the level of responsibility the adults give us, it’s hard to come by at our age. “Most of the Youth Corps members are between the ages 16 and 18.
Gaining First-Hand Experience
Every Tuesday night, the group completes an inventory check, re-stocks and performs operation checks of the emergency vehicles. Adult members have trained all of the youth members in CPR and basic first aid. After the students fulfill certain requirements, they become full riding members. When they go out on calls, they serve as aiders to the EMTs and learn first-hand experience in how to handle emergency medical situations.
“The feeling cannot be described when you know you have saved someone. But after the call is over there is a great sense of accomplishment. For me, it reminds me to be thankful for the things we have in life,” added Harjup.
Although the students joined CVAC to help others, their commitment to service is ultimately helping the students themselves.Research confirms that when teens learn early to be social, caring and responsible, they perform better in school.
Volunteering provides many benefits for teenagers including, increased self-esteem, a feeling of value, the opportunity to meet new people, the acquisition of new skills and wonderful experiences and memories.
Youth Corps Volunteer Jillian Friedmann described how she feels different since joining the Youth Corps: “The other day my friend fell on the football field and I ran over. I felt a sense of confidence because I knew what to do. I now know that I will no longer be the one sitting on the sidelines. I will be the one to jump in and help.”
Another Volunteer, Sami Witner, pointed out that she was passing a car the other night that was stopped on the side of the road and instead of passing by, like she normally would, she pulled over to help.
“They are all motivated by their new responsibilities, explained Youth Corps Leader Brendan Dymes. “In the few month since these kids have started their shifts, I can already see a change in them. There is more incentive and more confidence to help others.”
For more than 75 years, CVAC has been providing emergency care to New Castle residents. In addition to the Youth Corps, today’s volunteers are you neighbors – teachers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, parents and grandparents. Members respond to more than 500 calls annually and all funding comes solely from private donations and insurance.
New adult volunteers are always needed and welcomed. For the Youth Corps, however, the application process begins annually starting in February for those who will be 16 years of age or older by June of that year. Children of adult volunteers get first priority among the many applicants.
“We are delighted that Harris has chosen the Youth Corps for his community service. The serious nature of the work requires Harris to develop and exhibit a level of focus, responsibility and maturity. He is also learning valuable health and safety life skills,” stated Youth Corps parent Sharon Pollack.
“The camaraderie he is developing with the other members of the Youth Corps. and adult CVAC volunteers is an added bonus. We believe there is so much Harris can learn by having many adult role models in his life.”
Additionally, as a result of the experience with CVAC, some kids go on to pursue an education and/or careers in the field of medicine.
Volunteer Radhi Gohil said, “It exposes me to emergency and human distress and teaches me to be calm and clear minded in chaotic situations. CVAC and my other volunteer work have lead me to possibly study and pursue health policy and wellness in college.”
Watching and listening to the enthusiasm as these young adults come together, work together, and bond together is truly inspiring. In fact, they can now add one more role to their repertoire: Role Model.
Lisa Ballou is a freelance writer with a passion for communication. “Whether reporting the news, telling a story, or helping a business get its message across through PR and marketing, I use words to bridge people together.” She resides in Chappaqua with her husband and three children.
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