Helping Those in Need
Maria Carpenter always knew she wanted to go into a field where she could help people. Nursing was the perfect fit. And so was New York Institute of Technology. “Nursing schools are very competitive, and New York Tech offered me a generous scholarship, so New York Tech chose me,” she says.
Throughout her undergraduate years, Carpenter found ways to enhance her learning experience by volunteering her time. In July 2019, she, along with 11 fellow students in the School of Health Professions, traveled to Athens, Greece, on a medical outreach program to work with refugees from countries including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. The group also visited a Kurdish camp in the town of Lavrio. The goal was to offer basic medical services, including workshops for first aid, family planning, and art therapy.
The experience left a lasting impression on Carpenter, who was overwhelmed by the people’s resilience. “When we went to Lavrio, the refugees were hosting us and serving us,” she recalls. “They prepared tea and played music. Despite their difficulties, they still had a fighting spirit to laugh and enjoy life.”
As president of the Mary E. Mahoney Nursing Support Group, Carpenter has participated in several community outreach programs. In December 2020, she organized a toy drive for Bellevue Hospital’s pediatric unit. “We thought it would be a nice thing to get the children’s minds off the COVID-19 pandemic and make the holiday feel sort of normal,” she says. The group involved set up drop boxes around the Long Island campus and inside Wisser, where members of the community could safely drop off their donations. They collected more than 100 toys and brought smiles to the faces of the children at the hospital.
She also worked with Laura Friedland, senior specialist in the Department of Nursing, on a community outreach program to assist people in underserved communities in Port Washington, N.Y., to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. As a volunteer with the New York Tech Medical Outreach Program: COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance Group, Carpenter and other student volunteers interviewed people and answered questions regarding the advantages and side effects of all available vaccines. They also assisted people in choosing the best vaccine for their circumstances based on existing health issues, work and school time constraints, and other common challenges.
Getting involved in the community is important to Carpenter, who believes that positive actions like these will help her be a better healthcare worker. “Being exposed to the different stories makes me a better nurse, more aware, more sensitive of issues that I can look out for when I work with future patients,” she says.
As she prepares to graduate, her advice to new students is to “keep your eyes on the prize, take advantage of all the opportunities that are offered, get involved in campus life, and use every chance you get to take on a leadership role and advocate for not only yourself but also for your peers and for what you believe in.”