Service changes lives

As Ariel Hernandez wheels a patient from the front desk of St. Joseph’s Hospital to her room, he pays special attention to her mood. Does she seem agitated? Calm? If she is receptive, he will gently ask how she is doing and if she will need anything once she gets settled in. A volunteer escort at the Phoenix hospital, Ariel is developing a bedside manner, which is a good thing for someone who aspires to be a primary care physician.

“I try to provide the best quality care I can to my patients and as a volunteer, this is how I start — by treating my patients well and by letting them know that someone cares for them,” he says.

Remarkably, Ariel is only 19 and a freshman at Arizona State University. How someone so young developed such a deep appreciation for the value of community service can be attributed to his grandfather, a community leader in the small Mexican village of Las Nieves, and to the Doran Community Scholars Program, which accepted him this year into its freshman cohort.

His grandfather farmed in Las Nieves and routinely gave a portion of his crops to the poor. When the village needed a medical facility, he successfully led the effort to build a community clinic.

So when his grandfather died of cancer, Ariel knew he wanted to become a doctor who treats patients with the utmost care and respect. The Doran scholarship program is helping him do that, he says.

Founded by ASU alumnus Wayne Doran, a former Ford automotive executive, and his wife Maureen, the Doran Community Scholars Program helps students from the Phoenix Union High School District to attend ASU. It provides students not only financial support, but also extensive personal and professional development. A vital part of the program is cultivating in each student a social conscience and a desire to serve their communities.

Doran scholar Genesis Aguilera, a junior at ASU explains the program this way: A spirit of community service is as vital a part of someone’s education as their academic work, creating people who contribute to society.

“All of us giving back to the community and making it better — that is the ultimate goal,” she says. “When (community service) is integrated into our system and we become professionals we go back into our communities and we don’t forget where we came from, and we make them better.”

Genesis says she loves volunteering as a guide at Sky Harbor International Airport. She loves learning every nook and cranny in the sprawling terminal 4 and then finding people who look confused and lost, and getting them where they need to be.

The work requires knowledge, confidence and proficiency with people — skills that she knows will be valuable resources when she graduates from Arizona State University in two years with a degree in tourism management and development.

She began realizing this important lesson when she started volunteering at Camelback High School, which is just northeast of downtown Phoenix. But in her neighborhood, not everyone understood her passion for service. “People would ask me, ‘Now, why do you work for free? Do you not have a life?’”

After three years in the Doran Community Scholars program, Genesis has a ready answer for her neighbors: “It’s an increase in social capital. You link communities together to better society,” she says.

Community service often changes the student as well, says Farzana Abdulla, a junior biological sciences major whose parents emigrated from Bangladesh. While they struggled alone to learn new cultural mores, Farzana says her involvement in the community has given her confidence as well as a desire to help others.

Her volunteer work at a group home for children is a way to help others the way she has been helped, and the way she wishes her parents had been helped. “If maybe just one person had been there for them,” she says. “I could do that for just one person … if I could be like that for someone who needs it, I can really make a difference.”

Your gift of any size in support of scholarships at ASU makes a difference in the lives of students like Ariel, Genesis and Farzana. Please give today at asufoundation.org/give.