Guest blog by Jeanne Minetree, Director of the Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine.
On a Saturday morning in July when many teenagers were still asleep, the students of the Summer Residential Governor’s School for Life Sciences and Medicine (GSMHS) in Richmond, Virginia, boarded a school bus to the Stop Hunger Now Richmond warehouse. After listening to an introduction to the Stop Hunger Now program and its mission to “End World Hunger in Our Lifetime,” the students sanitized their hands, donned hairnets and divided into jobs for an assembly line.
After the experience, 2016 GSMHS participant Kailyn Janiga said, “It’s crazy to think in just two hours we helped feed people in need with over 11,000 meals. The best part about Stop Hunger Now is not just that they provide food and nourishment to people, but that they also give them a chance to get an education and create self-sustaining communities. Some of the stories Mike [Nelson, Stop Hunger Now Program Manager] told us really impacted me on how just a simple meal can change somebody’s life and how easily we can help someone in need.”
Their task was to package over 11,000 dehydrated meals to feed schoolchildren in need in developing countries, and they accomplished this in about two hours. When the final gong sounded, 11,600 meals had been bagged, sealed and boxed for shipment, and the warehouse resounded with cheers, claps and high-fives!
GSMHS student Danielle Heckert said, “It wasn’t until I explained the event to my parents that I realized the impact that I made on people’s lives. It is incredible that by just giving two hours of our time, we were able to package more than 11,000 meals. I appreciate the fact that the organization allows us to package the food because that was what actually made me realize the difference that I could make.”
GSMHS, sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and hosted by the Division for Health Sciences Diversity at Virginia Commonwealth University, is an intensive four-week program serving 26 gifted high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine or a related healthcare field. With a curriculum based on the case study method, students attend classes, perform laboratory investigations, practice skills in simulation labs, interact with healthcare professionals through a series of seminars and actually shadow physicians in a clinical setting and the operating room. The participants also perform several service learning projects, with Stop Hunger Now being one of their favorites.
“Working with the Stop Hunger Now group was a wonderful experience,“ added GSMHS participant Mackenzie West. “Though the tasks were simple, the experience only furthers the idea that putting forth just a little bit of effort can help change the world. I could see how it would greatly improve the health of many in need because of the nutrients that are jam-packed into the small meal bag. Overall, the entire trip was fantastic!”
One student summed up the morning’s event when she autographed the warehouse wall in turquoise marker by writing, “This was a life-changer!”