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Overton Brooks VA Medical Center


Student volunteers help Veterans

Student volunteers help Veterans

Shelby Atkins, student volunteer at Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, assists Joseph Gibson, Veteran, in leaving the medical center. Along with other student volunteers, Atkins plans to dedicate eight weeks out of her summer to help Veterans. These volunteers will also visit the Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston, La. as well as the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home in Bossier City, La. Students may also compete for scholarships through Disabled American Veterans, a Veteran Service Organization dedicated to serving Veterans will disabilities.

By Joe Thomas
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Overton Brooks VA Medical Center just received a new wave of volunteers as a part of its Student Volunteer Program. The volunteers, all high school students from the local area, will not only learn about numerous clinical and nonclinical areas of the hospital, they will also be given an opportunity to help Veterans. The program will last eight weeks. 
“We wanted to do things a differently this year, “Esther Comb said. “Not only are we exposing them to different fields, but we’ll also take them on field trips like to the Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston (Louisiana) and giving them other opportunities to help and meet Veterans.”

Comb, a voluntary specialist with the medical center’s Voluntary Service, says that the additional activities are meant to give the students a greater appreciation for the service of Veterans as well as educate them on what that service means. Most of these volunteers, if not all, will come in direct contact with those who served in such areas as the pharmacy, the Canteen, and customer service, to name a few.

Many of the volunteers will be eligible for scholarship opportunities through Disabled American Veterans (DAV) an organization that provides a wide range of services to disabled Veterans. Among the requirements of the scholarship, students must meet a minimum of 100 service hours for this year.

“One year we had a student win 15,000 dollars for school,” Hardy said. “Other students can get 5,000 dollars and then there are several 1,000 dollar scholarships as well.”

However, some students also need 100 service hours to graduate high school. For students like Shelby Atkins, a student at Loyola College Prep, this program provides an excellent opportunity to meet this requirement.

“I love helping people,” Atkins said. “This is a way for me to give back to them (Veterans) after what they have done for us.” 

For this reason, Atkins chose customer service, work that means knowing how to get Veterans to the right place at the right time. It means getting familiar with the layout of the medical center, which can be a difficult task for many.

“Shelby’s a real go-getter,” said, Charles Clark, volunteer, Overton Brooks VAMC.  “She’s a quick leaner. She is picking this stuff up quick and running with it.”

Rikky Love, a student at Caddo Parish Magnet High School, is also helping Veterans. Love chose the medical center’s pharmacy as she aspires to one day be a pharmacist.

“My dad was a Veteran,” Love said. “So I guess that’s why I volunteered here.”

Love says that her father’s service motivated her to serve Veterans. The pharmacy also gives her more exposure to her future career. Love plans on attending Xavier University in Louisiana in New Orleans to pursue a career in pharmacy.

“I want to be a pharmacist because I think it will be fun and interesting and they make a lot of money” Love said, laughing. “I also have cousins who are pharmacists.”

Like all of the volunteers at Overton Brooks VAMC, Love and Atkins will be helping Veterans at the medical center and like many of them they will be doing it directly. They will also be given opportunities to learn about military history and will also speak to Veterans at the Northwest Louisiana War Veterans Home. The top scholarship prize, offered by DAV, has also increased to 20,000 dollars, according to Comb. 


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