Last summer Palmetto High junior Brooke Ortiz volunteered at the dialysis unit at Jack Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
“I played with the kids,” she says. “We played a lot of Uno. We had Sorry. We did Five Second Rule.”
Five Second Rule is a relatively new game where you have a card, there is a topic, and you have to shout out three things related to it in five seconds.
“It gets exciting,” she says. “They (the children) are just sitting there, they have nothing to do.”
So a game like that makes things exciting for them and they get to let loose and shout.
“The kids are great. I was shocked at how comfortable they are,” she says. “It’s become a part of their lives. They have to go three times a week.”
During the school year, Ortiz volunteers in the emergency room as a child life specialist. That allows her to go from room to room to provide distractions and entertainment.
She loves to help others so she volunteers for an organization called Seven Cups of Tea, serving as a listener. People call in and tell her about things going on in their lives.
“It’s not really therapy, but I serve as a listener,” she says “They reach their own solutions. I’m not qualified to give advice. I merely serve as a listener and guide them to a safe, healthy solution.”
If there are serious issues that are concerning, the callers are referred to a professional. She found the website online at a time when she was really stressed and found it helped. When she became old enough, she trained to become a listener.
“It’s a course online,” she says. “It takes you through multiple lessons and multiple aspects. You focus on them, focus on they are feeling. How they can reach their own solution.”
At the same time, the website will send the listener tips.
“They’re not based on what you are actually saying,” she says. “Its online, so it’s a chat. I used it. For like a day. It was helpful and I really liked it.”
Because Ortiz was going through her junior year, she found her volunteer time limited.
“I’m scheduled for about an hour a week,” she says.
Although she’s scheduled for an hour, the conversation usually lasts longer than that. She stays online until the other person is finished.
At school, she’s been student council secretary and president of the Literary Society.
“It’s Palmetto’s book club,” she says. “Each meeting we vote and select a book. It’s a bunch of enthusiastic people who love books and talk about books.”
She’s also a member of the Biology Club, No Place for Hate, Key Club and Health Occupation Students of America.
“My partner and I placed first in the forensic medicine regional competition,” she says.
That qualified them to compete at the state level.
Ortiz is a member of the English Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, and the National Honor Society.
She’s also a member of the Climate Leadership Engagement Opportunity (CLEO).
“Their major message is about climate change,” she says. “We are starting to go into middle schools and elementary school and talk about climate change.”
Next year, she’ll tackle college applications but she hasn’t developed a list of potential schools just yet. However, she does know that she wants to take biology pre-med with the intent to go into pathology. She’s been interested learning about viruses and bacteria since middle school.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld