Columbia VA Health Care System
Garner (Youth Volunteer)
Benjamin Gardner has been a student volunteer at the VA for five years and has reaped the benefits.
Gardner is a 17-year-old rising 12th grader at Hammond School in Columbia. There, he took a vigorous course schedule which consisted of a blend of Honors and three AP classes last year. Gardner also has a deep interest in chemistry and plans to work through college to receive a Bachelor in chemistry in hopes of pursuing a career in psychiatry. He explains “The reason why I want to major in chemistry because it is an umbrella of science and he has the space to explore.” And though he has a rigorous workload at school, he is still able to maintain an A/B honor, which is an outcome of being a Hammond Scholar. Being a Hammond Scholar, Gardner must keep an A/B grade status and in return, Hammond pays for half of his tuition each year. On top of his school work, Gardner has also been in both varsity swimming and tennis since he was in 6th grade.
Gardner believes the reason why he excels in and out of the classroom is because of his growing curiosity. He says he gets his interest in learning from his grandparents. Though both are retired, Gardner states they never stopped learning and feeding their curiosity. Gardner strives to one be as knowledgeable as his grandparents one day.
Working at the Dorn VA Medical Center has also given Gardner an inside look at how a hospital works. In fact, one of the reasons why Gardner kept coming back to the student volunteer program here is because the exposure to a hospital environment. He likes the freedom Volunteer Services give the students to explore different careers in hospital. Gardner exclaimed that Voluntary Services gives you space to build the student’s responsibility and independence. He then goes on to say that it encourages himself to explore his interest and meeting new people.
Gardner first heard of this program through his father who signed him up. When first arriving at the Dorn VA, Gardner was questioning if he would enjoy his summer here due to his placement in the hospital. Instead of being placed with his father in optometry, where he had hoped to be placed, he was assigned to MyHealtheVet. But by the end of the summer, Gardner appreciated and enjoyed working at the Dorn VA, which encouraged him to come back each summer.
Today, Gardner works in the GI clinic as a student volunteer. He’s has worked at the GI clinic for the last two summers. When asked why he came back the clinic, he said that it gave him the opportunity to interact with the Veterans and absorb their knowledge. He also emphasized his appreciation for keeping him on task and busy. He transports patients from their procedure to their family and transportation or doing paperwork.
Gardner says that he is grateful for having the opportunity to work with Veterans. Describing his experience here as “eye opening” to how much Veterans have sacrificed for the country. He realized that it’s not easy for all Veterans to come back to civilian life. Gardner says that the Dorn VA is a big part of helping Veterans adjust back to civilian life style. After realizing the trauma some Veterans go through, he was honored to have the opportunity to make a difference in Veterans lives.