(July 12, 2018) — Before they open a book or attend a lecture, incoming medical students are given the opportunity to directly serve the community in a city they’ll soon call home.
For the past six years, Georgetown University School of Medicine first and second-year students plan and run a sports camp for homeless children living in the D.C. General Family Shelter.
“We have about thirty incoming M1s that come a week before orientation to do this with us,” said Meredith Njus (M’21), who is co-leading the camp with Adam Albitar (M’21) and Brett Will (M’21).
The week-long, cost-free HoyaMed Summer Sports Camp will take place on July 23 at Anacostia Park. During the course of the week, each medical student is paired with one or two children from D.C. General.
“The volunteers are there to work one-on-one with the kids,” Njus said. “They’re really the ones facilitating and having fun with the kids.”
Connecting With Other Hoyas Through Service
One of the main draws of the sports camp for incoming Hoyas is the opportunity to connect with other students interested in service prior to orientation. Maria Cacciapuoti (M’22), an incoming student, vividly recalled hearing about the sports camp while on campus.
“At Second Look Day, I spoke with students who had done the sports camp the previous summer and they were all so excited about it. When the application came out I immediately applied,” she said.
While getting familiar with the Georgetown community early is important for incoming students, there’s another driving force.
“I think the whole reason I was attracted to Georgetown is the same reason I was attracted to the summer sports camp: commitment to the community,” said Cacciapuoti. “It seems like such a central pillar to the education at Georgetown.”
Cacciapuoti’s sentiment aligns with the pattern Albitar noticed while reviewing this year’s batch of applications.
“Students apply because they want to integrate into the DC community, work with the kids, have a positive role,” said Albitar.
“If you want to properly serve in a medical capacity in the community, you have to know what’s going on in the community and have a rapport that goes beyond a professional one,” he said.
Making an Impact in the D.C. Community
The idea of a summer sports camp for kids may be simple, but the impact is powerful and lasting for the participants.
“We go out to a field and play sports for a week. But the kids have the best time ever,” said Albitar. “And you get the sense that maybe this is something that they don’t have access to normally.”
Albitar was inspired to become a coordinator after his experience as a counselor last year.
“My buddy James and I played Frisbee every day, sometimes we played soccer. By the end of the week, he didn’t want the camp to end. You know, you get a big hug from the kid, some tears are shed -- and that made an impact on me,” he said.
“I’ve seen him a couple times when I go volunteer at the Hoya Clinic and I always get this big greeting. Through the camp you build a real, personal relationship with people.”
Through her work with Big HOYA Little Saxa (BHLS), a mentorship program between medical students and the children at D.C. General during the school year, Njus has had a similar experience.
“The kids always talk about sports camp. It’s really cute,” she said.
When asked what he’s looking forward to the most this year, Albitar immediately answered:
“Roller Skating. The kids love roller skating and they’re really good at it. They’re often better than the counselors which is always a funny experience. It’s a lot of fun.”