Posts Tagged ‘volunteer’

This week we continue our interview with Eastern Washington University senior and ThanksUSA Scholarship recipient, Ashley Podplesky. (Week 1 available here) Ashley has some sincere advice to pass along to students considering social work or international affairs:

“For those interested in Social Work, I would say volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! I think the most basic need for a student interested in being a social worker is the desire to help people, which is something that can be expanded on while volunteering. Volunteering is also a great way to work with members of different populations, allowing us to learn more about people in different circumstances and those from cultures different than ours, which does nothing but help us prepare for working with our future clients.

As for students interested in studying International Affairs, I would say absorb everything you can about what is going on in the world at the moment. Read the newspaper or watch the news (multiple sources!), pay attention to laws that are being passed and changes that are occurring at the international level, and be sure to always seek support/criticism for your argument from more than one source. This will help expose biases (which we all have), and will give you a better foundation of knowledge to use when analyzing different events. More importantly, get out there and explore the world! You can read every book ever written about Australia or India or South Africa, but you can never truly know what it is like until you actually travel to Australia or India or South Africa and experience that culture firsthand. With this said I know money doesn’t grow on trees and that most people aren’t able to hop from one country to another without going into debt, but there are still plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in a culture different from your own. Stateside, most semi-large cities have sections of the city that are primarily one culture (i.e. Little Italy, Chinatown, etc), which is about as authentic as your exploration can get without leaving the country. Anything you can do to expand your knowledge of different cultures and the inner workings of foreign countries/their governments will always be beneficial in my opinion.”

Ashley’s advice comes from her personal experience. Currently, Ashley and her sister, Azaria (also a ThanksUSA scholar!) are spending time in Kisumu, Kenya, as part of Circle K International’s 2011 Global Service Trip. Ashley has been blogging about her trip and you can read it here.

Ashley is realistic and understands that “service” fields aren’t for everyone. Regardless, she does have great advice for students in any field:

“When it comes to choosing a major, just follow your heart! I know from personal experience that people will try to talk you out of choosing a major, just because they don’t see it as being a very good choice. Whether or not their points are valid, you are the one who will ultimately live the life you choose; therefore, your opinion should be the only one that matters. It may be hard to go against what others want from you but you will be much happier if you do, as you are living the life you want for yourself.”

ThanksUSA and our supporters are proud of Ashley and all of our ThanksUSA Scholarship recipients! As I write this, hundreds of ThanksUSA applications are in review for the 2011/2012 academic year. The need is great and there are many ways you can help. Click here to make your tax-deductible donation today. Make a $10 donation that will appear on your next cell-phone bill by texting THANKSUSA to 85944. Coffee lovers should look for specially marked cans of Hills Bros. Coffee and enter codes for the Hills Bros. Homefront Heroes campaign. Before you leave, please read as Ashley explains just how much the John (NMN) Coffey/ThanksUSA Scholarship has meant to her education.

“Having two majors means I am currently enrolled in two full-time programs, meaning I almost always take more than the full credit load of 18 credits. Whenever a student takes more than 18 credits there is a separate fee per credit for the student to pay, meaning more money is due. The John (NMN) Coffey/ ThanksUSA Scholarship essentially made it possible for me to continue with my education, especially allowing me to continue pursuing my two degrees of study. If I had not received this scholarship I really think I would have had to drop one of my majors, forcing me to choose between the two fields that I love. Receiving this scholarship made furthering my education possible, for which I will always be eternally grateful.”

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Occupational Therapy…the words alone make me think of a therapeutic way to assist someone with a work-related injury.  That is indeed one aspect of OT, but the field is very broad and enables people of all ages to participate in the activities of everyday life.

Gina Czmowski


This week’s feature scholar, Gina Czmowski, is an Occupational Therapy major at the University of North Dakota.  As the recipient of a $3000 Colonel Abraham M Ehrlich/ThanksUSA Scholarship, Gina has begun her pre-OT studies and is looking forward to a career that will help others live their lives to the fullest.


Gina explains that her inspiration to study occupational therapy came from witnessing its impact on a friend: “The thought of having a career that helps people accomplish their goals seems incredibly rewarding. I also have seen what an impact occupational therapy has had on a dear friend of mine; it was her experiences that initially made me want to pursue such a career.”

After finishing her studies at UND, Gina plans to become a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, possibly in a school setting.   With a great understanding of anatomy, neurology, and psychology, Gina will be able to help even the youngest patients through therapeutic play.

Gina is very focused on her studies, but also enjoys volunteering with a local homeless shelter and food pantry. Although she is obviously accomplished in her own studies, Gina’s greatest respect is for her father: “My dad has been working for the South Dakota National Guard for my entire life, so I have never known anything different.  Since September 11th, a bit of fear has existed concerning my dad being deployed overseas, but all military families have such thoughts.  I am proud and honored that my dad chooses to serve our country. Any challenges that I have faced I am sure numerous other military dependents have experienced as well.  Plus, any challenges that I have faced are nothing compared to what the men and women serving our country experience.”

Thank you for sharing, Gina!  ThanksUSA understands the challenges and sacrifices faced by our military families every day.  By making your tax-deductible donation today, you will be helping students like Gina attain their educational goals.   As she nears completion of her first year of studies, Gina reflects on receiving the ThanksUSA scholarship, saying, “Being a first year student is frightening enough trying to adjust to college life.  Having to worry about finances on top of that makes the transition that much more stressful. Some of that fear was alleviated by receiving the ThanksUSA scholarship.”

With continued support from donors like you, ThanksUSA plans to award 500 scholarships worth $3000 each for the 2010/2011 academic year. ThanksUSA Scholarship applications will be accepted until May 15, 2010.

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