Before I came to PA school, I worked in a residential treatment facility for adolescents who were having acute mental health crises. We would have kids battling severe anorexia, antisocial personality disorder, schizophrenia, and PTSD just to name a few. Universally, these were kids who had had to face hardships and adversity in their lives that many of us couldn’t even begin to comprehend. What I loved most about my work was the feeling of being able to give back to my community. When we were able to help a kid overcome an obstacle or help them develop skills to manage their lives better, I went home happy. There were many happy days, and many unhappy days doing that line of work. One thing that my years in residential instilled in me was a desire to always try to give back – to pay forward a small piece of all that I have been given in my life. When I applied for PA school, I thought I was going to have to give up something that meant so much to me.
One of the reasons I picked Quinnipiac as the PA school I wanted to attend was because of their commitment to community service. I thought that maybe we would do a few token activities or events that would benefit our community, but at least it was something. In my 8+ months at school, I have been blown away by how much community service is integral to the curriculum here and the sheer amount of activities that we do. Each student is required to do 25 hours of community service in their first year, but I would guess our class average will be double that amount. Between classes, pre-clinicals, and weekend training events, those community service hours really pack our schedule to the brim.
On a day-to-day and week-to-week basis, there are countless activities that we do. The first Monday of every month, we make, package, deliver, and distribute meals for a men’s shelter in New Haven. Wednesday and Friday mornings, a group of us goes to an elementary school in the area and works on reading and nutrition with the kids there. Every Friday, we collect all the recycling from the building where our school is housed and deliver it to a recycling center and use the money to help fund our activities. We have health fairs and screenings in communities throughout Connecticut that we help run. We volunteer at kidney and liver walks and meet with migrant workers and help teach English. We have raised money and gone to the Dominican Republic to help provide medicine and services. We have collected and wrapped over 200 gifts, and dressed up as Santa and his elves to deliver them to children in the hospital. Each week, we email with a high school student we have been paired with to mentor, and will host a meet-and-greet for them later in the spring.
Our community service culminates with a 5K Fun Run and Cow Chip Bingo event that we will hold April 14 at our North Haven campus. The proceeds from this event will help fund our literacy program and our other community service projects. There will be prizes and raffles and hopefully a lot of money raised for some really deserving people. We’re selling chances to win our grand prizes ($1500, $1000, and $500), and if anyone wants to buy a ticket, I have 20 I need to sell!!
It won’t be long before we are done with our didactic year of schooling and move on to the clinical portion. I feel grateful for the education I have received at Quinnipiac, but when I talk to my friends and family, it’s our community service that I am most proud of. I feel honored to go to a school that challenges me not just academically, but also on a social and moral level to be the best person I can be. I hope that when I move on from here, I can take these experiences with me and use them to benefit whatever sort of PA work I go into.
-Katrina Hull Physician Assistant 2013