Ambassador Girl Scout
What college do you plan to attend? Have you decided on your major?
I will be attending the University of Miami and majoring in Public Health on a Pre-Med Track. I was also one of 30 students selected for the Health Professions Mentoring Program at the university. I received the Presidential Scholarship as well as a grant when I was accepted.
What is the title of your project?
Project Story Time Smiles
Please describe your project. Be as specific as possible, including what, where and how you completed your project?
Story Time Smiles aims to enhance literary opportunities to pediatric patients in hospitals. By participating, volunteers record themselves reading stories that will be played in patient rooms.
It began with my involvement volunteering at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital prior to the pandemic. I noticed that many of the patients were lonely and once the volunteer program was stopped due to quarantine, the patients had very limited visiting restrictions. I still wanted to do something for the patients, so I started Story Time Smiles. It began as just myself recording and editing the videos. After reaching out to various high schools in my community, I was able to get more volunteers who would read and record stories.
I also established editors and trained them as to how the videos needed to be stitched together for hospital use. To keep this initiative sustainable, my school’s Intro to Computers course will continue to participate in Story Time Smiles. The stability of this project has been proven during this past semester when the school decided to have a pilot assignment and have students in the class learn to record, edit and stitch a sample video together. Additionally, I have been training my sister as well as two freshmen who will be taking over the project this month.
The ability to reach such a large audience has caused me to want to continue this initiative in the future and hopefully expand it to multiple hospitals near and far such as the Holtz Children’s Hospital and the Shands Children’s Hospital, eventually becoming a national organization that can impact the lives of many beyond the Floridian borders.
Why is this project important to you? What gave you the inspiration to approach this topic the way that you did?
This project is important to me because of my interest in medicine. When I volunteered in the Biomedical department at the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, my job was to process and deliver equipment requests to patient rooms. During this time I noticed some patients were alone in their rooms quite often.
I received a lot of feedback from the hospital staff regarding how much my videos were enjoyed by the patients. I feel it is important that healthcare providers not only focus on the physical aspect of the patient but the emotional one as well.
Additionally, reading has always been a great pastime of mine. I feel it enables you to go anywhere at any time and often leave all your troubles behind. With my mother being a teacher, I also saw the importance of reading at an early age. With my desire to continue being part of the hospital at a time when volunteers were no longer allowed, this allowed me to still give back in a way that was both emotionally and academically beneficial to the patients.
What was the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced was creating a management system. This part was two-fold: First was my ability to manage my time effectively to process the videos, give feed-back and revision instructions to volunteers in order to keep up with the hospital’s demand. The second part was in managing both volunteers and the editors. It took multiple back and forth correspondences with the hospital to ensure the videos were created to their specifications. Then this required making sure I had an efficient instructional system that volunteers could follow. Multiple zoom sessions were also held with editors to train them with the editing program and video expectations.
How does this project contribute to your future goals?
This project contributes to my future goals because I want to pursue a career in pediatric healthcare. It demonstrates the benefits of addressing the patient as a whole to ensure their mental well being is exposed to opportunities that can enhance their recovery.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of completing your project?
Throughout the process of completing this project, I learned many things about myself that I didn’t know I could ever achieve.
For example, I would never have thought of myself to be the type of person to correspond eloquently through emails or even be proactive and reach out to others. Not only did I come out of my comfort zone and have multiple correspondents and conference calls with the volunteer department but I also got to know and work with the Director of Children’s Experiences at the hospital.
Most recently I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Mark Mestre, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. He heard about my project and I was able to tell him that I will be attending the University of Miami this fall and hope to come back to the hospital when the volunteer program reopens. Before I began this project I would’ve never had the confidence to meet and discuss myself with anyone in this type of position.
I learned that lasting contributions are sometimes disguised as hard work that makes an unexpected impact.
What did you learn about your community in the process of completing your project?
In completing this project, I learned that there is always something in any community that can be improved or enhanced. I also learned that if you think outside the box you will find people interested in genuinely wanting to see your idea succeed. The people that I encountered along my journey saw my dedication and interest in meeting the expectations set forth by the hospital. The constant positive feedback provided by the various hospital departments gave me the encouragement to continue improving my project. I learned that kind words from strangers can go a long way. I was also able to see that there are other hospitals and organizations in my community who can benefit from my videos.
Have you received any awards or recognitions for your Gold Award Project?
My project has been recognized by my school community and has helped me receive a nomination for a Silver Knight Award. I also received the Smith College Book Award. This project was also a focus of my application essay for the University of Miami Health Professions Mentoring Program which is a selective cohort of approximately 30 students looking to pursue medical careers. I feel this unique project distinguished me from other applicants and I will be part of this program at the University of Miami this coming Fall.