Harris County Gateway to Care Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), in collaboration with the Harris County Citizen Corps, Houston, Texas, is one of 993 MRC units in the United States. After President George W. Bush challenged all Americans to volunteer in support of their communities in his 2002 State of the Union address, the MRC was founded as a national network of medical and nonmedical volunteers. Organized locally, MRC units help to improve the health and safety of their communities.
Integrating a Younger Generation
Youth members in the Junior MRC can participate through their Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) activities. HOSA, a national student organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Health Science Education (HSE) Division of the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), has a twofold mission: (a) to promote career opportunities in the healthcare industry; and (b) to enhance the delivery of quality healthcare to all people.
The MRC provides partnership opportunities that allow HOSA members to take an active role in contributing to their schools and communities in public health and emergency preparedness. This partnership reinforces the value of HOSA chapters and member involvement in emergency preparedness and addresses the priority issues of the Office of the United States Surgeon General. In fact, youth members are certified in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and automated external defibrillators at the same education level as adults.
In 2014, Junior MRC youth in Harris County participated in several events where first aid stations were provided, including: the Santa Maria Bonita Street House of Hope Run for Recovery; Walk4Hearing; and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Walks. At the Run for Recovery event, upon hearing that the venue had a water shortage, some Junior MRC team members began making mini-icepacks for runners by placing ice in rubber gloves and passing them out at the finish line. Other Junior MRC team members were placed at the mid- and turnaround points with adult team members to spot potential injuries.
At one local school, its Junior MRC team members created an emergency preparedness presentation for 250 teachers at their school and gave each teacher a Ready bag of preparedness goodies to take home. Another school’s Junior MRC team has gone into the local YWCA to teach healthy eating and exercise awareness to elementary school kids.
All Junior MRC team members have participated in local hospital MD Anderson Cancer Center’s ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience) campaign, an interactive computerized exercise geared toward high school students. Students receive a certificate of completion and a $25 gift certificate for their participation.
Pictures are courtesy of the Harris County Gateway to Care Medical Reserve Corps.
Questions & Answers About Youth Involvement
Why work with volunteers under age 18?
Working with youth whose career paths are in the healthcare field benefits the local MRC unit; and
Working with youth members strengthens the community as a whole.
What can youth do in an MRC?
Work a phone bank;
Assist with administrative assistance;
Provide logistics support;
Assist at first aid stations;
Provide instruction and resources for health education programs targeting youth and underserved populations;
Assist with immunization clinics;
Assist at local blood drives; and
Shadow professional volunteers.
What about the maturity and safety of youth volunteers?
Volunteers know each other;
Youth are always supervised;
Leaders should use discernment when deciding in which activities to involve youth;
MRC units should always have parental consent and/or involvement; and
As with adult volunteers, behavioral health professionals should be available if needed.
In 2013, the Klein Oak High School Junior MRC took first place in the area and state competitions, advancing to the national HOSA competition. In their first year of the partnership, they placed fifth at nationals out of ten high schools for their MRC partnership activities. The benefits of this partnership can be summed up in the words of former Junior MRC team member Ekta Patel, who graduated high school in 2013:
Thank you so much for the shout out! My team at Klein Oak would never have been able to accomplish so much without your help!
Participating in MRC and attending the numerous events has led me to choose the major of public health at UT [University of Texas] Austin. I would like to still continue working with the MRC in Austin. Is there a branch or volunteer coordinator that I could get in touch with?
Once again, thank you for helping my team succeed and unknowingly help me choose my future in public health.
Lunetta Sims, Harris County Gateway to Care Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) coordinator, has worked for Gateway to Care, Houston, Texas, since 2010. She manages some 770 volunteers. The youth volunteers include Junior MRC teams at Michael DeBakey High School for Health Professions, Klein High School, and Klein Oaks High School. She may be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.