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Making a Difference One Saturday at a Time: A Spotlight on Health Professions Residential College

By: T.J. Wing and Amanda Shaffer

Imagine losing your job. What happens next? Christmas is on its way and you go to bed hungry while you strain to stay warm. The thought of Christmas gifts for your children can’t cross your mind until you find your next meal. You feel hopeless, as if no one cares and you struggle to find the reason for your circumstances.

Now think about being a college student. You desperately need better grades. You are applying to a program that accepts twenty people a year and find yourself stuck in your room most nights doubting your ability to finish and pay for school.

You may think there is nothing in common with these two situations, but you are very wrong.

In the Health Professions Residential College (HPRC), we strive to uphold five core values; self-assurance, community engagement, intellectual curiosity, a love of learning, openness and inclusion. We constantly work towards bridging not only the gap between professor and student, but also creating a bridge between students and the community. Actions speak louder than words and when you give 18 freshmen the goal of making a difference, their potential is limitless.

HPRC Students volunteering

This year HPRC students have donated numerous hours to multiple ground breaking organizations across the Treasure Valley as well as on campus. Led by faculty-in-residence T. J. Wing, associate professor in the School of Allied Health Sciences Department of Respiratory Care, and program assistant Amanda Shaffer, a respiratory care student, HPRC students are an audacious group who have participated in many impactful community projects. Saturday mornings have been spent in the service of others. The living learning community has volunteered in multiple gardens, Ronald McDonald House charities, Salvation Army, assisted living facilities, and different church groups to name a few.

The HPRC has made a difference by providing increased opportunities for at-need residents of the surrounding Boise valley. In one instance, the students dedicated their time to helping serve dinner to homeless men and women at the Rescue Mission. It was cold and the students were briskly serving dinner when a woman started to act as though she was mentally ill. Students in the HPRC saw this woman as needing help. She was cold, hungry, down on her luck, and felt trapped. After the myriad of community service projects prior to this event, the students were able to empathize with her. The students did not view her as simply mentally ill, but more frustrated with her situation and ashamed that she needed help, and thus explored additional options to get her the help that she needed. The diverse community service projects that HPRC participates in not only makes a difference in the lives they touch, but in their lives as well.

HPRC Students volunteering at food bank

HPRC students have seen the worst of Boise and made the best out of it. They have learned to see the good in everyone, disregarding stigmas that surround our society. These students are doing groundbreaking work at the grassroots level. No task is too early, dirty, or physically strenuous. Students are making a name for themselves while they prepare a garden for the Boise Urban Garden Schools, teaching children in the pediatric clinic how to wash their hands, and sorting through clothes at the Idaho Youth Ranch.

The Health Professions Residential College is taking a new approach to making a difference not only in health care, but in their community. Sometimes a smile and an extra pair of hands can make the difference, but these students are making the difference with hard work and compassion.