Inspiring Initiative, Unexpected Rewards

(April 24, 2013) The smallest acts of kindness can go a long way, so imagine the significance of a huge act of kindness and the impact that it can have. Laura Berlin, a soon-to-be-graduate of Armstrong's nursing program, has gone above and beyond when it comes to kindness and making a difference in peoples' lives. Berlin is completing her internship requirements and working with Rita Stutzinger, the school nurse at Jenkins High School in Savannah.

The internship has two requirements: students have to complete seven weeks in leadership and another seven weeks in the community. Berlin is currently fulfilling the community portion by working with Nurse Rita and filling in as school nurse for the day.

When Berlin first began her internship at Jenkins High School, she was shocked at how many students came by the nurse's office for problems that were not health related. Students would come to Nurse Rita and ask for snacks, school uniforms, hairbrushes, and other personal items. Berlin noticed that Nurse Rita would give students snacks that she had bought with her own money and kept in the office for the sole purpose of feeding students when they were hungry. The school nurse has a set budget, but the budget doesn't cover students who don't have the financial resources to purchase basic hygiene products and school uniforms.

“And that's how it started,” Berlin explained. “I saw that these students didn't have the means to purchase items that I take for granted everyday.”

After seeing how often students would come to the nurse in need, Berlin decided to do something. She wrote a letter to family and friends asking for monetary or material donations for the nurse's station. She found the most success from her sister in New York City, who shared the letter with colleagues at the insurance company where she works.

“My sister's coworkers were more than happy to donate to my cause,” said Berlin. “Some of them couldn't fathom the thought of not having a hairbrush or deodorant, and that's honestly what made the project so successful.”

Berlin set a goal of $1500 and, well before the deadline, she had received $3500 in donations, as well as food and hygiene products.

“Laura's initiative was remarkable and will make a difference,” said Nurse Rita. “Not only were her efforts unsolicited but she also fit this project in on spring break when she easily could have been simply relaxing.”

With the funds, Berlin and Nurse Rita purchased deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, nail clippers, hairbrushes, and many other items essential for high schoolers. Berlin also bought things to help Nurse Rita organize and equip her station, such as a large shelf, bins, pillows, blankets, a floor scale, and bleach.

But the generosity didn't stop there. “We had enough funds left over to help students with vision problems by purchasing glasses,” said Berlin. “It's a work in progress, but we are determined to help these students succeed in school and be healthy.”

During her time at Jenkins High School, Berlin has forged relationships with many students. One memorable experience for her involved a special education student who came to the nurse for diabetes treatments.

“She had to have her blood sugar tested two times a day and she wasn't really aware of why she had to come to the nurse's office and have her finger pricked,” Berlin recounted. “But I used this opportunity to tell her about diabetes, and we talked about how to keep herself healthy. We also talked about friends and school, and created a bond.”

Nurse Rita and Berlin have had amazing success and donations are still arriving for the students. Their only challenge now is what to do with the extra funds. “We weren't sure if we wanted to expand the list or continue to buy big ticket items like glasses for students,” Berlin said. “Glasses weren't part of the original plan, but since we had the extra funds, we figured we should go for it.”

Written by Lauren Geiger, Marketing and Communications spring 2013 intern.