MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Youth volunteer Christiana Hess of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center was selected as the $20,000 scholarship winner of the Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program.
Named in memory of the second secretary of veterans affairs, the Disabled American Veterans’ scholarship program recognizes outstanding young men and women who volunteer their time, and encourages youth volunteers to play active roles in the Department of Veterans Affairs Voluntary Service programs.
Hess attributes her love of volunteering to a tradition of military service, from her ancestor Henry Harrison Ross in the Civil War to her uncle Bryan Ross, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Volunteering has made it my duty to do whatever I can to help our veterans,” Hess said in a news release. “This is my way of remembering and celebrating my family legacy.”
In 2009, Hess began volunteering at the medical center in the Ambulatory Care Service, where she assisted several departments by organizing and updating pharmacy manuals, preparing appointment letters and, most importantly, greeting patients and answering their questions or locating staff to assist with their needs.
During the first summer that Christiana volunteered, she worked alongside her mother, Pamela, a patient services assistant for one of the medical center’s primary care teams, at the front desk.
“I remember some (World War II) veterans who would reschedule their appointments just so that they could come while we were working together,” Christiana said. “I never realized how much I could impact a person’s life until I volunteered.”
The following two years, Hess volunteered at the front window of the Outpatient Pharmacy. She served as the first line of communication between the department and veterans, collecting information from patients for pharmacy records, guiding them through the process to obtain their prescriptions and directing them to the appropriate locations.
“We are always pleased when Christiana greets us at the windows,” Oscar and Mildred Steckman wrote. “She is always neat and says hello with a smile that makes us feel that we are welcomed. Her loving attitude and personality give us a feeling of home.”
In addition, she trained other youth volunteers regarding proper procedure for dispensing prescriptions and use of the pharmacy computer system. Hess introduced her best friend, Dalisa Bohrer, to volunteering and last summer, they each completed more than 100 hours of volunteer work in the pharmacy.
Hess has not only excelled as a volunteer at the medical center, but as a student at Martinsburg High School. The recent graduate was recognized for her academic achievements as a member of the National Honor Society and honor roll, as well as a recipient of the West Virginia PROMISE and George Karos scholarships. She demonstrated leadership as captain of the front ensemble for her high school’s marching band.
Through her membership in the National Honor Society, Key Club, Ecology Club, Tuscarora Indians 4H Club, American Red Cross and Relay for Life, she has volunteered in many community service activities.
“I understand the value of hard work because of volunteering,” Hess said. “I’ve learned to be responsible, to multitask and to work with different kinds of people. The dedication and commitment I have for volunteering is the same dedication and commitment I have as a student at my high school or captain of our section in the marching band.”
Her future goals have been greatly influenced by her experience volunteering at the medical center.
For the first two years of college, she plans to attend Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., before transferring to West Virginia University in Morgantown to pursue a degree in pharmacy.
Following completion of her education, Hess intends to become a VA pharmacist. Her volunteer work with pharmacists in primary care has inspired her career choice.
“When I watched them provide personal care to the veterans — from regulating dosages to providing guidance on blood pressure and diabetes — I saw myself doing the same work. It’s through volunteering that I know I want to become a pharmacist and to continue serving our veterans.”