Teens in the House
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JULY 26, 2017 – For those who live outside of Forsyth County, the SECU Family House can provide a welcoming place to stay while a loved one is in the hospital or hospice.
“It’s a really nice place for families,” said Monica Cruzat, a junior at Early College of Forsyth. “What they do here is awesome. They really do care.”
Cruzat is one of 35 middle and high school students who have volunteered at the house over the course of the summer during the four sessions of the Teens in the House summer internship program.
Many of the student volunteers are participants in school programs that call for volunteer service hours, such as Crosby Scholars and the International Baccalaureate Programme at Paisley IB Magnet School, said Ainsley Darnell, the community relations and development coordinator for the house.
Last week, seven high school students – all women, as it happens – participated in the internship program.
On Thursday, the student volunteers started their day by tending to some of the flowers and other plants that they had planted on the grounds earlier in the week. After that, they moved on to preparing a lunch with a Mexican theme for those staying at the house.
Although most of the people staying at the house are family members of someone in the hospital, some people who are receiving treatment also say there. For instance, someone receiving chemotherapy over the course of several days might spend the nights in between there.
“It’s for patients and caregivers,” Darnell said. “They have to live outside of Forsyth County.”
Staying at the Family House can mean a lot for families that would otherwise be far from a loved one, said Rylee Westerlund, a volunteer who will be a freshman at Reagan.
“It’s hard being far away,” she said.
As part of the program, the volunteers learn more about the world of hospitals and health care. The SECU (State Employee Credit Union) Family House is off Burke Mill Road, less than 2 miles from Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. Earlier in the week, the volunteers had taken a tour of the Forsyth medical center and learned more about how each department works.
Learning more about strokes and how to help those who have had them made a particular impression on Amy Johnson, who will be a sophomore at Reagan High.
The week had been a good experience, she said, and she was thinking about continuing to volunteer at the Family House for her Crosby Scholars volunteer hours. She and her friend, Danae Jacchia, who is also a sophomore at Reagan, have already volunteered together at such events as an Earth Day fair.
Jacchia’s grandfather and great aunt are nurses and she is planning to become a nurse herself.
“I really did enjoy touring the hospital and asking nurses questions,” she said.
She also appreciated the opportunity to meet people staying at the house.
“I got to talk to one of the families staying here,” she said.
Sasha Sagar, who will be a freshman at Atkins Academic & Technology High School, wants to become a doctor one day. ‘I’m not sure what type yet.”
So experiences the week brought had also been quite valuable for her. Sagar first participated in the Family House internship program last summer.
“I liked helping people here, and it was a lot of fun,” she said. “I learned a lot more about the Family House.”
Sydney Tribble, who is a senior at Salem Academy, also participated last summer.
“It was pretty fun so I decided to come back,” Tribble said. “You got to see how everything worked, and I learned a lot.”
Tribble also completed her Girl Scouts project at the house.
Cruzat heard about the program from her older sister, Maria, who had a good experience when she volunteered during a previous summer. Cruzat is planning on a career in the medical field – probably sports medicine – so the week had provided valuable experiences for her as well.
Cruzat is a veteran volunteer. For two summers now, she has been volunteering in the Orthopedics Department at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to earn volunteer hours for Crosby Scholars. She has had such experiences as watching people have casts put on or taken off and doing their physical therapy.
One of the fringe benefits of the Teens in the House program is getting to meet and become friends with fellow students. Like Westerlund, Mia Ragonesi will be a freshman at Reagan. Now that they know Johnson and Jacchai, they will already have friends in the upper grades who can help them get to know Reagan this fall.
As they waited for the other volunteers to arrive on Thursday morning, Johnson offered advice to Ragonesi on foods to avoid buying in the school cafeteria.
This is the third summer that SECU Family House has offered the summer volunteer program. Earlier this summer, two groups of middle school students and another group of high school students volunteered for a week.
The SECU Family House, which opened in 2011, is available to those who have someone staying at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center or at Kate B. Reynolds Hospice Home, which is just down the lane.
The house has 45 rooms. Up to four adults can stay in each one. To learn more about the house, go to SECU Family House.