The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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April 21, 2024

NIH Teen Ambassador Program: Giving back to the community

Laura Gine-Vega
As part of the larger volunteer program at the Children’s Inn, the Teen Ambassador Program strives to support the Inn through volunteering, fundraising and hosting special activities.

On Feb. 13, the Teen Ambassador Program at the NIH made Valentine’s Day goody bags for the patients staying at the Children’s Inn. Having opened in June 1990, the Children’s Inn functions as a “place like home” for children and their families receiving treatment at the NIH. 

As part of the larger volunteer program at the Children’s Inn, the Teen Ambassador Program strives to support the Inn through volunteering, fundraising and hosting special activities. If accepted into the program in April, middle and high schoolers can participate in a year-long program that provides an opportunity to learn about and contribute to the Inn and its mission. Volunteers attend meetings featuring hands-on activities, learning opportunities and speakers from different departments sharing their areas of expertise or a mix of each. They also hold specialized events every holiday, like the recent Valentine’s Day-themed meeting. 

Greeshma was one of the teen ambassadors at the Valentine’s Day meeting. Before discovering the Teen Ambassador Program, she volunteered generally for the NIH. Since the summer of 2023, she has created kits for the families staying at the Inn and helped with multiple fundraisers. She decided to volunteer because she hopes to work at the NIH and wants to make a bigger effort to give back to her community, she said.

Junior Lily-Victoria Cardot has been part of the Teen Ambassador Program since Aug. 2023. When she stumbled upon the volunteering aspect of the Inn, she saw it as an opportunity to connect with other volunteers while cheering up children and their families, she said.

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“To give them fun events kind of takes their mind off of things and makes them forget what they’re there for,” Cardot said.

Cardot’s favorite event was Trunk or Treat, a Halloween-themed gathering geared towards providing pediatric patients an opportunity to engage in the holiday festivities. Firefighters, police officers and EMTs came and decorated the inside of their vehicles so that the children and parents could Trick-or-Treat at each vehicle. At these events, the teen ambassadors staff food and activity stations, guide families through the activity, answer questions and get to know the families and kids.

Volunteer Engagement Manager Meghan Arbegast Smith manages hospital volunteers, in-kind donations and the Teen Ambassador Program. Before working at the Children’s Inn, she worked in professional sports. She wanted to transfer professions to find a better work-life balance, and when she took a player from her team to visit the Children’s Inn, she found the job she was looking for. Arbegast Smith has worked at the Inn for seven years and appreciates its diversity and inclusivity. 

“We have hosted families at the Children’s Inn from every state in the US and over 100 different countries,” Arbegast Smith said. “It’s a pretty unique environment and is just a cool place to be and to learn about other cultures.”

In addition to spending time with the patients, she also loves watching the young volunteers bond with them. It allows the children staying at the Inn to interact with kids closer to their age who want to ensure that they have a positive experience during a difficult time, she said.

She believes that one of the most important parts of volunteering is to keep an open mind and always be willing to learn. She encourages anyone interested in the NIH to apply and come into the volunteer day with kindness and gratitude, she said. 

“I think it’s just a great way for teenagers to learn about giving back at a younger age, so that they hopefully become lifelong supporters,” Arbegast Smith said. “It’s great to know what organizations are around you and ways that you can support and give back and just connect with a cause that’s meaningful to you.”

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About the Contributor
Laura Gine-Vega
Laura Gine-Vega, Feature Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I joined the Black and White to connect myself and others to the community and inform people about relevant current events. What is your favorite song? Beauty and a Beat by Justin Bieber

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    Clara VegaFeb 27, 2024 at 3:02 pm

    Great article and great NIH volunteer opportunity.