Junior gets slice of life through volunteering
Cindy Ramos is a junior at South Tahoe High School. After volunteering for a few events in town, the 16-year-old started to like the idea of helping people. She now spends much of her free time with elderly patients at the skilled nursing facility at Barton Hospital. She spoke with us about the rewards of giving back.
How long have you lived in Tahoe?
Twelve or 13 years. I was born in Los Angeles.
Do you like it?
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I don’t like the cold.
Do you play in the snow, ski or snowboard?
No, I’m afraid something will happen to me.
I hear you do a lot of volunteer work.
I do that most of my free time, and then it’s homework.
Where do you volunteer?
I worked the Tahoe Marathon, I’ve been doing that for three years. Basically we just worked the refreshments stands and helped organize the parking. I also helped with the Optimist tree sale for two years, but I don’t think I can do it this year. I helped with the Optimist pancake sale last year, setting up tables and serving pancakes. And I helped with campus cleanup at the high school.
My biggest volunteering thing right now is at Barton Hospital, I’m a junior volunteer.
What does a junior volunteer do?
What I do is I go visit the people that are at the skilled nursing facility, they are elderly. Sometimes I get to paint nails. They can’t go outside, so we take them outside. We play games, hang out, clean their rooms. Or just listen to them, and their problems.
What do they talk about?
Sometimes their sons and daughters don’t visit them and they don’t understand why, and they want to talk to us about stuff like that.
Are they lonely there?
Yes, pretty much.
What does it give you to do that kind of work?
I have a lot of fun doing it. The first day of orientation, we saw some people in the hallway, and I smiled at them, and I could tell that made them really happy, it made their whole day.
Have you learned anything from working with the elderly?
Yeah, because they tell you so many things that people my age don’t know. They’ve lived through a lot and they tell us about their experiences in life.
Don’t you also work with kids your own age?
Oh yeah, I’m an outreach worker at Tahoe Youth and Family Services.
And you get paid for that?
What do you do?
I go where the youth are at, that are my age. And because this is a small town, I usually go to the casinos, and I hand out cards to them and information about Project Safe Place.
What is Project Safe Place?
It’s whenever a kid needs help or runs into trouble, they can go to a safe place like a fire station, recreation center, school, or a McDonalds. All those organizations have signed up for this project and they know what to do if a kid comes in and needs help.
A counselor is always on call and available through a beeper and the counselor will go and get them.
What do you want to be after you graduate?
I know when I graduate from high school, I don’t just want to sit at a desk where I’m not around people. I want to work with people.
What are you going to study at college?
My sister is taking an anthropology class right now, and that sounds really interesting.
If you could have a wish about a way to make the world better, what would it be?
I just got back from my vacation in Los Angeles and on this one street there were a lot of homeless people. Some of them couldn’t talk, I guess they had a disability. I wish there was some kind of program that could help them, so they don’t have to do that. Some of them are probably dealing with addictions.
Do you think it’s hard being a teenager in South Shore?
To find things to do, yeah. There’s no malls, there’s only the casinos.
What do kids end up doing?
They end up getting in trouble, I guess.
Do you think the negative stories you’ve heard through your work have made you see the world in a different way?
It just makes me want to strive to do better, and make kids more aware. Most of the kids that are getting into trouble have had something bad happen to them, and so they want to do bad things. But if we stop it there, it won’t keep going.
What made you start doing all this volunteer stuff?
At first, I was just going for the hours, to get an ROTC ribbon or put it on scholarship applications. But after a while, it became more than that.
What did it become?
I’d encourage anybody to walk into the skilled nursing facility for just five minutes and talk to one of the patients, or smile at them, and they will see what I’m talking about.
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