Patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital”s Cancer Center got some early Halloween goodies Thursday thanks to Mississippi State University”s Day One students.
Six freshmen from the leadership course handed out care packages containing Goldfish crackers, Kleenex, hand sanitizer and more to the few patients present during midday at the Cancer Center. The group has traveled to Columbus from Starkville once a week throughout the semester to lend a hand.
Julie Smith, a social worker at the Cancer Center, acts as the Day One group”s liaison. She”s in charge of putting them to work and reporting back to their instructors. Although the students haven”t been able to connect with all of the Cancer Center”s patients, Smith says they”ve touched a few.
“They love the attention,” said Smith of the center”s patients. “They can”t wait to see (the students).”
Because the majority of patients receiving chemotherapy arrive in the evening, the Day One students, who come during mid-morning, don”t get the chance for as much one-on-one interaction as they”d like. But Smith has kept them busy all the same. They”ve cleaned and cared for the gardens in the Cancer Center”s courtyard, supplied video equipment for the lobby and helped staff members with paperwork. And when possible, they have made friends with patients.
The Day One group will spend their final visit, this Thursday, inviting more face-to-face interaction with a finger-food party.
The Day One program is designed to get students involved with their communities, but each of the students visiting Baptist has volunteered in the past.
“You still have to learn to be a leader about some things and take charge. I just want to take some of the skills I”ve learned (in the program) throughout college and my career,” said Tiera Gillespie of Starkville.
Gretchen Smitherman can relate.
“During high school I participated in a lot of clubs, but I didn”t become a leader. No one is a leader in our group, but we each have different positive aspects and certain people have more knowledge of certain stuff. We definitely build off each other,” she said.
David Palmer of Madison will take what he”s learned to help with a summer internship at a veterans hospital where he volunteered during high school.
“Hopefully I”ll get to show other people what to do, show them the ways of the hospital,” he said.
But the program does as much to teach the students how to relate to people as it does to lead them.
“I”ve never been where I like to talk to random people, but coming here to the Cancer Center, I”ve learned to talk to people,” said Cheri Cabello of Gilmore, Texas.
Holley Hover of Gulfport says working with cancer patients has taught her leadership means thinking of others first.
“I find other people need encouragement for what they”re going through,” she said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.