The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

The Student News Site of Mountain Ridge High School | Glendale, Arizona

The Ridge Review

Two Ridge students pose at prom photo booth
Festival of Lights
Remi McKim, Journalist • May 16, 2024
a total solar eclipse
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Remi McKim, Journalist • May 16, 2024

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Teen Volunteering at Hospice of the Valley

Hospice of the Valley is a not-for-profit hospice—an institution for end-of-life patients—by remaining committed to their mission: “Bringing comfort, dignity and compassionate care to our community”. The team at Hospice of the Valley organizes a vast array of events and programs, with one such being the teen volunteer program. On March 21st, I had the pleasure to interview Laurence Sinn, the Teen Volunteer Coordinator at Hospice of the Valley. Now, I got in touch with Laurence through my own experience as a volunteer at HOV. Since my training class in February of 2022, I have enjoyed my time volunteering at the Thunderbird Palliative Care Unit,yet it was always rough seeing the pain many families felt losing loved ones. Thus, I chose to interview Mrs. Sinn; I wanted to know why she chose to be in a field with such a gloomy reputation.


Q: Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you please take a moment to introduce yourself?

A: “Certainly, my name is Laurence Sinn. I am originally from France and have lived in the US for 26 years. I moved as a foreign exchange student. I have been working at Hospice of the Valley (HOV) for the past 17 years


Q: What inspired you to lead the Teen Volunteer Program at the Hospice of the Valley?

A: “The teen program was launched in 2001, created by my supervisor S. Ortega (social worker). She started this program with another person who is sadly no longer with us (Pad Pierce). Originally, I joined HOV in 2007 by chance— an accident, if you will. I had experience working with kids and teenagers before, but when I first came to Arizona, I worked at the airport because I was trilingual. I started the navigator program at the Sky Harbor Airport. It is not something that I thought I would be working on. Back in France, it wasn’t a career that I THOUGHT would be feasible to make a living. I went through law school and did private school for economics. This job was something that had nothing to do with what I went to school for. We were here for about a week and went to buy a map for Arizona since the valley looked completely different at Barnes and Noble. The cash register lady told me about the Sky Harbor program. I worked as an adult volunteer coordinator for 7 years and decided to join Hospice of the Valley because of what I heard from others and felt it was right to make a change. It felt like it was the next opportunity coming into my life. I originally applied to be an adult volunteer coordinator. By complete chance and timing, they told me, ‘Laurence, we saw that you worked with kids in the past, and you had experience with volunteering, would you be willing to join as the teen volunteer coordinator?‘ So that’s how I became the Teen Volunteer Coordinator.”


Q: How many students are selected each year and how many years has this program been running for?

A: “The program originally started in 2001 and was divided into the West and East Valley divisions. I originally joined to manage the East side of the valley. There were always great outcomes and many teens were interested in volunteering for us. Lacking applicants was not an issue. But what happened was the volunteer coordinator of West Valley left, and instead of rehiring someone, they decided to give me the whole valley. I have been around 9 years and managing the teen volunteer program by myself. I receive around 3-10 applications daily from all around the valley. I think I received around 400+ applications just last year. The way it works is that we have around 7 facilities throughout Maricopa County, and the PCUs are the only places where the teens can volunteer because they are under adult supervision. Adult volunteers typically spend lots of time in the program whereas teens oftentimes only join for 1-2 years. I have a constant renewal of teens coming in, and we take around 15-20 teens in each of the 3 training classes we have throughout the year. Already 14 kids have signed up for the June teen class (as of March 21st).”


Q: Can you please tell us about how one can join the teen volunteer program and the application process?

A: “The process for joining the program is simple. Whenever I get your application, I send a follow-up email to all of the teens regarding where I am on the program status. It’s typically just the straight truth: I can’t take everyone and I can’t create job opportunities at our facilities. Based on their experiences, location, etc., I offer positions for eligible students. The major issue recently, however, has been that we have been delayed since COVID. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the teens who applied were put on a waiting list and dispersed into the training classes over time. By the time I was done with our February class, I already had 6 to 7 kids waiting for the next training class. What’s most important to me is that the applications are coming from the student and not their parents. I want to see genuine interest and passion for the program. I want them to take initiative and ask questions themselves


Q: What kind of experience will the students get from volunteering at the Hospice? (what does their day look like and what are they expected to do?

A: “Typically, teens who sign up for this type of volunteering realize that HOV volunteering isn’t like ‘car-wash‘ volunteering. The teens need to provide compassion and love to the patients at the locations. Teens are typically expected to go visit the patients, but many a time there won’t be long conversations because most people who enter the facility are in end-of-life care. It’s not that they don’t appreciate someone coming there to care for themit’s just that they sometimes aren’t able to hold as long a conversation. Sometimes, I feel that the teens don’t spend enough time with the patients. I mean, it’s scary for many: not only are you visiting someone you don’t know, but they’re also at the end of their life. There will always be something for the teen to do in the PCU if patients are tired or with family. We want to make the thing look really ‘homey‘ and comfortable. We’ll typically ask you to make a good environment and just do chores similar to what you might do at home to just make the environment nice. The type of volunteering you sign up for is very simple: to provide socialization and companionship with the patients. But it is very valuable.”


Q: What are some advantages that you see volunteering at a hospice provides over volunteering at a hospital/clinic?

A: “I feel that hospitals typically have an age requirement to begin applying. For us, the minimum age requirement is 14. I still think it’s quite young, but since you can do other tasks than just front desk and patient care, it is still manageable. I do have remote projects for teens and I would say we train our volunteers very well. I feel that at HOV, we only have the best intentions for you and we only want the best in the future for you!”


Q: Any final words of advice for those who are inspired to be teen volunteers at the Hospice?

A: “What I want to say is that teens—if you are gonna do this type of volunteering— it should be coming from you. This place is so profound that you have to be someone who wants to do this for the right reason. It cannot be like your parents applying for you or your parents wanting you to do this because it looks good. It’s volunteering, you have to be flexible and willing to change. It’s no longer about meit’s about my mission to serve the patients at the hospice of the valley. The idea is to pretty much put yourself in the patient’s shoes and try to understand them regardless of whichever difficult situation they may have. The teen program doesn’t need recruiting because it’s word of mouth: the message circulates through employees, former volunteers, etc because we trust they will refer someone good to come volunteer for us. When I was a teenager, I would have never imagined doing this type of volunteering. So I applaud the teens who choose to do this. The fact that you are putting yourself out there into that situation, I say ‘bravo.‘ Most of the teens who enjoy what they are doing, stay long-term (I mean, look at you! You’ve been here for over 2 years). They even interview their volunteer coordinator! I have had 2 former teen volunteers who worked in the volunteer department teens in the nursing program do more hands-on stuff with the patients, but we’ve hired some of those kids once they have their nursing certification. We’re a big ol’ family! We love to support each other.”

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