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Volunteers and Pink Slips

As part of Assignment Detroit, is working with 11 high school students from the Detroit area. They come from all walks of life, from suburban prep schools to city schools both strong and weak. The project will illustrate the Detroit region from their point of view—what it's like to live there now, and whether the area has a place in their future or not. Today's post is from Dan Dou, a junior at Grosse Pointe South High School in suburban Detroit.

Last month, I e-mailed the local Beaumont Hospital in Grosse Pointe, Mich., about being a volunteer. Several friends at my high school had done this and, since I am considering a major in medicine, I wanted to try it. I was accepted.

After setting up an orientation with the hospital's student program coordinator, I got an e-mail saying the appointment had been rescheduled due to "unforeseen circumstances." When I went to the hospital's Web site to get a reference form, it wasn't there. Instead, I found a page saying that student volunteering had been suspended until further notice. So, I e-mailed the coordinator. A form e-mail came back telling me that someone would be in touch.

Someone from the hospital called and rescheduled the orientation. That's where we were told the student coordinator had been laid off and that the hospital would not be accepting any more volunteers. Beaumont Head of Volunteer Services Beth Frydlewicz said that the hospital system had been forced to reorganize its volunteer program, eliminating four student program coordinators to cut payroll and refocus resources.

Like many Michigan businesses, the hospital is having budget problems. Beaumont's CEO has said the hospital is seeing more people who don't have adequate insurance or who are on Medicaid and Medicare. There is a credit crunch. And patients are delaying elective surgery, which brings in money.

So, construction projects have been delayed, hundreds have been laid off and the hospital has stopped accepting student volunteers. I am one of the last two high school students allowed to volunteer. I have told the people at Beaumont that I would like to work in the emergency room, but college students usually do that. It sounds like I may be assigned to a post called "a patient escort." I don't have my start date yet. But feel lucky that I got in.

As companies throughout metropolitan Detroit, and across the country, cut costs, opportunities for high schoolers to gain experience are being restricted. Losing the chance to volunteer is just an inconvenience compared to the pain of having a paid job vanish. But my near-miss shows how Detroit's turmoil is beginning to affect the lives of many, from city-dwellers to suburbanites, from the young to the old.

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  • 1

    Lucky for you, Dan, that you got a spot, but honestly Beaumont has been screwing up and degrading for some time now.

    All my life the Beaumont in Royal Oak was my family's hospital, until a few years ago when our experience there revealed how far they had slipped, which I honestly think has been the result of misplaced priorities, expansion done too quickly, and now overexpansion.

    My family has now switched to another long-established health system that has been well-managed through the years. Even if many of the facilities aren't as fancy as some others, attention to patients' conditions and needs has never been given short shrift in deference to the financial bottom line as seems to have happened at Beaumont.

  • 2

    There is no planning in Detroit or in Michigan. The Republicans have killed it.

    Numerous hospitals have gone up fairly recently and are now abandoned.

    Big moneys in Hospital Design and Construction. Problem is no one looked at the demographics before they got hyped to do the project. Ad hoc snow jobs.

    Planning is about controlling the work intelligently and carefully determining what really needs to happen.

    Did it happen on the first bond Issue for the schools?
    NO. So now we are abandoning school buildings that were extensively repaired and the scavengers are coming in and stealing the new windows.

    It's a horrible scene... war zone like. Hollywood Kafka- eske fit for Mel Gibson Mad Max stuff.

    Did the bankers double check the data. No they can't spell Planning or demographics either. They just got with the "program". The whole thing is ad-hoc and guess who ultimately gets to suffer?


  • 3

    it really is a shame to society at large that this program has been cut. Opportunities are now lost for those that would have wanted to volunteer in the future. It is programs like this that encourage people to make a difference to others and they are usually the first to go during times of financial hardship.

  • 4

    To me, this post forces a question far beyond any one hospital... How are the cuts we are making in the region in response to the economic crisis affecting our long-term economic viability?

    Volunteer experiences and summer internships are key to the development of budding professionals. These experiences help to shape the expectations of youth as they enter the workforce, and they give young people new skills and experiences to make them more competitive in the job market. If, for budgetary reasons, we eliminate the opportunity for youth to experience real-world professional settings, are they going to be adequately prepared for adulthood?

    Additionally, there are several organizations (such as the Chamber) who believe that by providing quality internship experiences here in Michigan, the region may be able to stem the flight of the young talent Michigan has worked so hard to produce (see for more info on young talent leaving the region). If we cut these options out, we force young talent to look to Chicago and other cities. Let's not fail to think long-term as we make budget decisions today.

  • 5

    I have not been following day to day,so this information may be redundant.
    With regard to education, has anyone checked out the Loyola Academy. It is currently housed in the old St. Francis de Sales school ( I did second and third grade there.)
    About twelve years ago, three retired (mandatory at 75) Jesuits took it upon themselves th start a school, a prep school.
    It worked. They now have some 275 students, all college bound, from all over the metro area. The students are required to wear white shirt, tie, dark trousers, and real shoes. (Having taught in Compton, CA, I can appreciate the problem.) One of the former students told of complaining to the administration that he had trouble with the boys in his hood. The response was, "If you are going to lead, you start now."

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