Youth Volunteer Scholarship
Annually, Saint Therese awards two $2,000.00 educational scholarships in recognition of youth volunteers who enrich the lives of seniors.
All youth volunteers currently in grades 9-12 who have completed a minimum of 20 volunteer hours with one or more seniors by date of submission. Prior applicants who have not yet received a scholarship are encouraged to re-apply. Prior recipients are not eligible and will not be considered.
Eligible applicants have spent time impacting the lives of seniors in a care center or within one's community. Volunteer hours may be spent the following ways: one-on-one visits, doing household chores, raking leaves, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, etc.
Eligible applicants must reside in the seven county Twin Cities metro area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott or Washington) or the western Wisconsin counties of Pierce or St Croix.
Applications must be received or postmarked by February 28, 2023.
“That’s how David was,” the woman fondly explained, “he always made sure to walk me home.” I had met Jane (an anonymity pseudonym for privacy purposes) a mere fifteen minutes prior to her detailed story about her late husband. As she spoke, her eyes glossed over and she gazed slightly to the left as if she was seeing a memory unfold somewhere within the petals of the gerbera daisies on the wallpaper. Her stories teleported me to a small Iowa town in 1946, and I felt as if I was watching Jane and David fall in love in front of my eyes. In reality, it was 2020 in a memory care facility in Maplewood, Minnesota that I volunteered at regularly to spend time with the residents.
My first day at the memory care facility I played bingo and was assigned to help a woman with a mild form of memory loss: Jane. Her hands were tucked neatly within one another, placed just below the quilted heart on her sweater. She sat elegantly with both feet on the floor, but was visibly suffering the grip of Age. She smiled at me and welcomed me at the place next to her, and we exchanged formalities. She wore a beautiful gold ring, and when I asked her about it her eyes lit up as if she had been waiting for me to mention it. “It was a gift from my husband,” she explained warmly. She struggled to remember my name, but when she talked about David her speech was clear and stories detailed. “My favorite thing about him,” she said as she admired her ring, “was that he always made sure to walk me home.” She repeated this line multiple times a session, and I always wondered of its significance.
Weeks would go by and I would talk to Jane every time I went there. We shared stories about when we learned to drive and exchanged laughs when she would poke fun at the nuns at her primary school. Most days, Jane and I neglected to pay attention to the bingo numbers being called and lost ourselves in the stories we would share. Her voice was smooth, and she had the power to take me into her memories. I stood on the dock when David came home from the Navy and sat in the pews of Saint Jerome Church as they got married. I was there when she mourned the loss of her only child, and I observed as she found a new love in painting. As time went on, I noticed that her memory began to slip. She would forget simple phrases and repeat herself more. That is when I found out she had very little time left to live.
The last time I saw her, she grabbed my hand and looked me in the eyes. It felt like a montage at the end of a movie. Her stories flashed before me as she softly said, “thank you for walking me home.” Tears welled in my eyes as I realized I had been her escape. I was her new David. That is when I understood what she meant. David did not just walk her to her physical, tangible home. He helped her find who she always wanted to be. I remembered her telling me about how she had lost herself after the death of her child. With righteous anger but gentle acceptance she said that David “brought her back.”
He brought her home.
Since that day, I have continued to volunteer with the elderly, and have made a myriad of meaningful connections. Jane inspired me to continue on the path of helping the elderly, and helped me come to the indomitable resolution that I want to be a nurse. Because of her, I have an intimate appreciation for loving support and subsequently strive to make my presence one that emanates compassion. As a nurse, I want to be a guiding light on the path of others as they find who they were meant to be and learn to love life again. I will walk others home. I want to show others that life is beautiful, no matter the circumstance, and hold them in their most terrible pains.
And that’s how Jane was. A woman with unparalleled and unconditional love who, with her hand in mine, taught me how to love as well. She helped me find who I was meant to be. She walked me home.
Ever since I was small, I have always visited nursing homes to see my mom, who is a nurse. My dad would swing us by, dropping off a coffee for her, and she would take me around to meet her patients. I remember their smiling faces, and them reaching out to shake my small hand. In the beginning, I recall being shy and quiet, but as I grew older, I became more social and would happily chat with the residents. This was really beneficial to shaping me as a person, as it helped me become comfortable around adults, leading me to be confident when talking with authority figures and others older than me.
In eighth grade, I was given the assignment of doing a capstone project, and I knew immediately what I wanted to do. After meeting so many of my mom’s patients, I was extremely comfortable in the setting of a nursing home, and I greatly enjoyed interacting with them when I visited. I remembered how it felt when I saw their faces light up as my mom introduced me to them, and then asking me numerous questions on school, activities, or about what I was interested in. I knew that for my capstone I wanted to talk about the effect volunteering and socialization has on seniors. One statistic that stuck out to me the most was from a study where it discovered that lonely seniors were 50% more likely to develop dementia. This quote stuck with me ever since. There are also increases in mortality from heart disease and strokes that are caused by the same social isolation. This further helped solidify my desire to volunteer with seniors at St. Therese. However right when I was preparing to apply as a volunteer, covid hit. My class was unable to complete our capstone projects, and many rejoiced over it being canceled. However, I was upset that covid had ruined our plans. My great aunt was supposed to volunteer with me as my chaperone, and not only was I excited to spend more time with her, I was also looking forward to meeting and talking to seniors. Luckily, I had an opportunity again to apply in the fall of 2021.
On Thursdays, my school lets out an hour earlier, and while many were unsure how to spend their time, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I applied to volunteer in the residential beauty salon. I helped the head beautician by helping bring residents down to the salon, doing the laundry, and helping decorate for the various holidays. However, the most nerve-wracking job for me was calling the residents to remind them of their appointments. As tech-savvy as my generation is, calling others on the phone is not something most of us have much practice outside of friends and family. The first time I called someone, I was extremely nervous, and stumbled over my words. Luckily, as time went on, I got more practice, and learned to speak up so they can hear me better. However, my favorite job was going and walking with the residents down to the salon. At first I was a little shy, and didn’t know what to say, but thankfully the holidays were approaching. The week before Thanksgiving, I asked for people’s favorite pies to eat, and many answers surprised me! While there were the expected answers of pumpkin and apple, there were also mentions of rhubarb and pecan. One lady excitedly told me about how her great grandson was coming over, and they were going to bake an apple pie together. Another mentioned how she had always tried to replicate her mother’s pecan pie recipe, but never quite got it. When I left that afternoon, I thought about all the stories I heard throughout the day, and thought back on their answers as I ate my pie of choice at Thanksgiving dinner. The week before Christmas led to some interesting conversations as well. I learned of many different traditions and meals. I heard about favorite holiday sweaters and old decorations passed down throughout the family. As the weeks went by afterwards, I could feel both the usual residents going to their appointments and I warming up to each other, and I now remember them by name. Volunteering has made me feel like I belong. The smiles and nods from residents as I pass brightens my day, and I think about my experience for the day when going home, already missing going and picking up the towels from the dryer, or walking someone back to their apartment.
In conclusion, volunteering with seniors is something I think more people should do. Every Thursday, I looked forward to going to St. Therese and helping in the salon. With my help picking up the residents, it saves the beautician time she can use to make sure their appointments are enjoyable, without having to worry about needing to go escort someone. For many of the residents, going to get their haircut and washed might be the highlight of their week. As Andie MacDowell says, “Talking to your hairdresser is almost like talking to your therapist.”. When you visit the salon, it is important to feel at ease, and you can almost feel your worries disappearing as your hair gets transformed into something new. A large sentiment amongst my generation is our fear of talking to authority and adults, and I definitely feel that volunteering with seniors can help with that. When talking to them, I learned new ways of having conversations, creating a large arsenal of topics to talk about. One thing I think is important about volunteering is the exposure you have to many different types of people. For instance, over the summer, I volunteered as a camp counselor and worked with third and fourth graders. The conversations I had with them were extremely different from the conversations I might have with my friends, which differ from the conversations I had with the seniors. The ability to be comfortable talking to a wide variety of people is an extremely impactful skill, as it helps connect you to others around you. Volunteering with seniors has shown me that, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunities, life skills and lessons that have been offered to me through this program.
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