By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune staff writer
[Editor’s note: In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Kokomo Tribune is recognizing volunteers who make a difference in their community.]
The high school years for most students consist of attending athletic events and activities, spending time with friends and just hanging out. But at least one group of students is help families at St. Joseph Hospital.
Tomorrow’s Leaders is a group of nine students who volunteer for four hours at a time at least once a week. To date they have volunteered for a total of 2,300 hours.
They have been nominated for Group Volunteer of the Year honors through the United Way of Howard County.
Their duties include wheeling patients from the lobby to their rooms, delivering food trays and flowers, taking specimens to the various laboratories, answering the telephone and running errands for nurses.
Rachel Vaughn, 17, a junior at Kokomo High School, has volunteered 575 hours over the past two years at St. Joseph Hospital.
“I was in the Explorers program and when I finished it they gave me the opportunity to be a volunteer or an internship,” she said. “At the time I was only 15 and couldn’t do an internship.”
Vaughn plans to attend Ball State University following graduation from KHS to study to become a pediatric nurse.
She said the volunteer work will help her in college because she has gotten to learn different aspects of the hospital environment.
“I like everything about volunteering,” Vaughn said. “I like talking to the patients and the different people. Not too long ago there was a woman who was 113 years old. She was nicer than I assumed.”
Vaughn has helped train other volunteers at St. Joseph and may volunteer at Ball Memorial Hospital while attending Ball State University.
When she’s not at school or volunteering at the hospital, Vaughn works at McDonald’s.
Brittany Edwards, 18, a senior at Kokomo High School, was named the Youth Volunteer of the Year in 2012 for her efforts at St. Joseph.
She plans to attend Purdue University to become a trauma care nurse and would also like to be a paramedic.
“I want to ride in the helicopters,” Edwards smiled. “Nursing and being a paramedic are my passions. I want to get my nursing license so I have a secure job and work as a paramedic on weekends.”
She finds taking specimens to the lab the most fascinating part of being a volunteer because she gets to read the labels.
Edwards said she has carried leeches and an umbilical cord to the labs.
She won the honor in 2012 for the close relationship she developed with fellow volunteer Carol Cox, after Cox’s husband died unexpectedly.
Edwards volunteered to work the same hours as Cox and the two have formed close ties.
“It’s about helping the patients,” she said of the volunteer work.
Edwards is a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Mayor’s Youth Council for Substance Abuse Prevention, a member of the Girl Scouts and is a former member of the KHS band and swim team.