An eighth grade student at Torchbearers’ Christian Academy in Dade City has received a presidential honor for her volunteer work at a local hospital.
Fifteen-year-old Savannah Jones was awarded a President’s Volunteer Service Award for 2015 after she spent the summer doing all sorts of tasks at Bayfront Health Dade City.
The President’s Volunteer Service Award recognizes citizens who have achieved the required number of service hours for a particular age group during a year.
For youths between the ages of 11 and 15, those volunteering for 100 hours or more reach the “Gold Level” status, and receive presidential recognition, a personalized certificate and a congratulatory letter from the president of the United States.
Jones greatly surpassed the 100-hour qualifying figure by putting in nearly 175 volunteer hours between June 2015 and August 2015.
The middle school student typically volunteered eight hours a day, for three or four days a week, during the summer.
Jones said she was “excited” and “shocked” when she found out she was receiving the prestigious honor.
“I want to be a nurse or doctor when I grow up,” Jones said, so she thought volunteering at Bayfront Health would be a good experience.
According to Amy Fort, volunteer coordinator for Bayfront Health, Jones was willing to help in any area needed throughout the hospital and had a “can-do” attitude.
Jones’ duties included filing for the hospital’s accounting department, replenishing emergency supplies and greeting visitors at the facility’s front desk.
“I was like a floater,” Jones said.
“I really liked volunteering in the ER (Emergency Room), and before a patient comes in, I’d have to clean the beds and clean the rooms, and make sure that it was prepped for them,” she said.
Fort said that Jones “took great pride and initiative with her volunteer duties at the hospital. She was great at communicating and a bright spot in many of our patients’ days.”
Fort also noted that volunteers, such as Jones, serve as the “backbone” for the hospital.
“They are the first people to greet visitors, and they are our cheerleaders in the community,” the volunteer coordinator said. “Volunteers have played a critical role in our hospital for years, compassionately supplementing the services that (the) staff provides to patients, families and guests.”
Jones believes that more youth her age should volunteer in their spare time, especially at local hospitals, pointing out that many people need help.
In addition to her volunteer service, Jones is viewed as a model student by staff at Torchbearers’ Christian Academy, a school that has an enrollment of about 70 students, in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Principal Jan Yarbrough said, “everything stands out about her,” and added that the eighth-grader is “agreeable” and “works hard.”
When Yarbrough heard that Jones spent the summer volunteering at Bayfront Hospital, she said she wasn’t surprised.
Jones, according to the principal, ““seeks to please.”
“She has excelled and moved up tremendously, and is very much in charge of her life,” Yarbrough said.
Carolyn Babbitt, who is one of Jones’ teachers, describes the young woman as someone who is honest and wants to do well.
“Children grade their own work and the teachers re-grade it. She’s been very honest with that. If she’s not sure it’s right, she asks for some interpretation,” Babbitt explained.
Jones began attending the Christian school in 2014, after she and her parents realized that Pasco Middle School wasn’t an ideal fit.
“She has come a long way,” Babbitt said. “She’s gained all kinds of confidence,” she added.
She believes that Jones is thriving in the small-school setting, surrounded by people who accept her.
“It’s really helped her,” Babbitt said.
Jones admits she didn’t really start to enjoy school until she transferred to the academy.
“I started liking school, and I just wanted to come all the time,” she said. “I’m having good grades now, and I think it’s helped me more.”
Jones plans to continue volunteering for the hospital over the summer, and also plans to be a Habitat for Humanity volunteer.
Published March 23, 2016