At FIU, it seems like every other person I speak to is a pre-health major. Granted, I am heavily involved in circles where the pre-health students dwell, being one myself, but even early on in my college experience it seemed like at every corner of FIU there was talk of medical school, dental school, shadowing P.A.’s and doctors and “I wonder if my 3.7 GPA and 500 volunteer hours are going to be enough to get into post-grad school!” It was extremely daunting, to say the least. I had no guidance, no older siblings to ask for advice. My advisor wasn’t very helpful and I was too overwhelmed to ask my peers what they were doing.
As a sophomore, I met Jacqueline Alvarez and Dana Hernandez, two people who seem to know exactly what to do and how to do it (I have since come to realize that they do not know “what“ or “how” but rather are very good at discovering “what” and learning “how”). They pulled me into their circle of academic insanity and have helped me ever since in ways that I could not imagine. They shared with me what they were doing and included me in opportunities that they came across, which is extremely rare in the ultra-competitive pre-med environment that has everyone at one another’s throats for any possibility of adding to their résumé. Because of them, I joined Phi Delta Epsilon (PhiDE), the medical fraternity on campus (not to be confused with Delta Phi Epsilon, which is a sorority). They provide so many wonderful opportunities for research, volunteering, etc., but you have to actively seek out and apply to these things individually and usually, they are all related to helping kids because PhiDE is partnered with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network. Now, personally, I have no qualms with this. The competitive nature of applying for these things pushes me to work harder and I want to be a pediatric oncologist, so the philanthropy fits right in with my passion.
I never noticed that I hadn’t seen any of the professional fraternities/groups on campus’ philanthropies have to do with the geriatric community but Jackie did. She grew up being taken care of by her Abuela, which later turned into Jackie taking care of her as she got older and less able to care for herself. My fellow Hispanics/POCs can relate to this; we grow up enjoying grandma’s cooking and having her care for us while our parent’s worked and then our parents (and eventually us) return the favor as our grandparents get older. Through this experience, Jackie had the idea of a club that’s centered around giving back to the geriatric community. That’s how Young at Heart was born.
Young at Heart is a club whose sole focus is to give back to the generation that made everything we have a possibility. Nursing homes are packed to the brim, unfortunately, and the geriatric community is often forgotten. Our only goal is to provide to them as much love and companionship as we can because nobody else is doing so. If we wouldn’t want our grandparents to feel forgotten or alone, why are we allowing others’ grandparents to feel that way? Young at Heart provides all pre-health (this includes you, pre-dental/pre-P.A. students!) with weekly volunteer hours at a nursing home and membership participation opportunities on campus as well. We have doctors and health professionals who come to our meetings to speak to us, shadowing opportunities on the horizon for our members and many more ways to not only boost your résumé but to make a difference in somebody’s life.
What do we ask in return? Consistency and 110% effort. We provide the opportunities, our members only have to fulfill their requirements, most importantly the weekly 2-hour volunteer requirement at a nursing home (although we expect all the responsibilities that you accept as a member to get done). You don’t even need to apply for it, you just have to show up with the form that we provide filled out with a smile and an open heart, ready to care for those who once cared for us.
Any pre-health student can join Young at Heart by requesting us on Panther Connect or by attending our biweekly meetings, which are held every first and third Wednesday of the month (every other week). Our next two meetings will be February 20th and March 6th.
Author: Ricky Chavez
University: Florida International University