As our celebration of National Volunteer Month draws to a close, read about two of our extraordinary teen volunteers.
Ian Polachy – Outstanding Young Leader Award
In a little over two years, high school junior Ian Polachy has already made a big impression on Empath Health staff and fellow volunteers. He has donated more than 550 hours since starting as a teen volunteer just before his freshman year.
“Ian’s enthusiasm and level of involvement is on a plane all its own,” says Volunteer Coordinator Jill-Anne Fowler, who nominated Polachy. “He has been fearless and curious and is a good role model for other teens.”
Polachy has been involved in nearly every teen volunteer role available including visiting hospice patients and PACE participants to celebrate birthdays, recording life stories as a part of the Lifetime Legacies and Veterans History Project initiatives, chalk art, baking, crafts, special events and more. Over the course of the summer he volunteered more than 100 hours at the Suncoast Hospice Resale Shop in Clearwater, becoming a valuable member of that team. Polachy was named a Cheer Team leader in February 2020 and has served as a member of the Leadership Board since June 2019.
“I started out as a freshman in high school not really knowing what I’d be getting myself into. Before I knew it, I was involved in many aspects,” says Polachy. “I would not have been able to create all these amazing memories and learn as much as I have if it was not for the amazing teen volunteer coordinators.”
His work supporting patients and participants came full circle when he was able to use his skills learned as volunteer to support his family after the loss of his grandfather. Staff members note how Polachy has matured into a responsible young man who is a role model for both his peers and his younger siblings.
While Fowler was unable to go into schools to present about volunteer opportunities this past spring due to the pandemic, Polachy helped to spread the word. Several of his friends joined the volunteer program in the fall, as well as his younger sister.
“I often use Ian as an example of all that teens can do and the responsibilities they can take on even as a freshman or sophomore,” adds Fowler. “He is always willing to talk to the community about the teen volunteer program and Empath Health.”
Martin Ladjimi – The Cassidy, Cloe, Berkley Wilder Hospice Teen Scholarship Recipient
Martin Ladjimi is a senior at Largo High School, enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program with a grade point average of unweighted 3.53/weighted 4.13 and is involved in many extracurricular and service activities.
He began volunteering with Empath Health during his freshman year and has dedicated more than 570 service hours so far across many facets of the organization, from the Resale Shop to birthday parties for hospice patients. He also sits on the Mid-Pinellas Teen Leadership Board and is a Teen Mentor. In the role of mentor, he has assisted new patient and family volunteers on their first and second visits and later helped volunteers in support roles.
“Martin volunteers in roles in which he is often a first point of contact. He is a wonderful representative of our agency and our volunteer program,” says volunteer coordinator Jill-Anne Fowler. “I can completely rely upon his ability to work well with other teen volunteers and keep track of any details necessary for a project to be successful.”
Ladjimi has been quick to adapt during the pandemic, picking up shifts wherever there was need and learning how to best utilize Zoom for teen volunteer activities and virtual birthday parties for Suncoast PACE participants. He inspires his fellow volunteers to try new roles and has even brought his siblings on as volunteers.
“To me, volunteering is about taking time to appreciate the members in your community,” says Ladjimi. “Suncoast Hospice has granted me the opportunity to meet so many different people in the community and hear the many stories these individuals have to share. What I have learned through my experience is unique and unattainable through a classroom.”
After graduation, he plans to pursue a medical degree with the goal of becoming a pediatrician. He hopes to use the skills learned in empathy and communication as a volunteer to better connect to future patients.
Help Your Community – Be a Volunteer
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