Medical Explorer Post 4077 made history at Texas State this year when three of its members became the first students in the group’s 29 years to receive the Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Students David Sharp, Christopher McDonald and Tori Howard received the prestigious award signed by President Donald Trump, only given to individuals whose service impacts and inspires those around them. In order to qualify for nomination, a person must earn at least 250 hours of volunteer work in a year.
Medical Explorers was built on selfless service to others, ranging from providing equestrian therapy for those who are disabled to building custom wheelchairs for children in Mexico. It meant a lot to Sharp, McDonald and Howard to be able to receive recognition for their commitment to others.
Sharp, a recent biochemistry graduate, was introduced to Medical Explorers his freshman year after a friend brought him to a meeting. He earned the majority of his hours by providing end-of-life care for people living their final moments in hospice, sometimes visiting patients from 4-7 a.m., before his 8 a.m. classes.
“It’s worth it. I wouldn’t want to say to someone, ‘I think I really care about my grade right now more than I care about your life,'” Sharp said. “I would be upset if someone told me that. I do not want people to be neglected.”
McDonald, a film-student-turned-biochemistry junior, rose from chief volunteer coordinator to co-president of Medical Explorers in the span of a year. He also managed to log more than 400 volunteer hours, an accomplishment he downplays.
“It’s only like 10 hours a week, so it seems pretty manageable. I think it shows how much you can do without a crazy amount of effort. We could all do that,” McDonald said.
Now, McDonald occupies a role as a volunteer medic at the Special Olympics, a love he likely would not have found without Medical Explorers.
“When I first went to Special Olympics, I met the chief medic there and he welcomed me. He’s like, ‘welcome to the Special Olympics family. You’re now part of us for the rest of your life,'” McDonald said. “Every volunteer organization I go to through Medical Explorers welcomes me so much.”
The love for the organization is shared among the award recipients, especially Howard. She said she could not have earned the award without the help of her peers.
Howard came to San Marcos from Mississippi with medical experience under her belt—she had taken a Combat Lifesaving Course during her time in the Marine Corps and continued on to paramedic school. What she needed was an outlet for her desire to help people, which is what she found in Medical Explorers.
“It’s really personally fulfilling; I’m not really good at anything; I’m not really athletic; I can’t draw,” Howard said. “But what I can do is give you my time and give you my thoughts and my care and my kindness. That’s really what I have to offer the world; it feels really good to be able to do that. Just like playing sports or drawing a nice picture, it feels good when you’re done.
Medical Explorers is open to students of all majors, whether they are interested in going through first aid training or simply hoping to become more involved in the community—and maybe win the next big award.
“You should join if you want to be a better person and you want to be more prepared in life,” McDonald said. “You don’t know what you don’t know. Go make mistakes and go learn.”