- Sage Ridge Spotlight
Sage Ridge Senior Ethan Wu was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by AmeriCorps “in recognition and appreciation for their commitment to strengthen our nation and communities through volunteer service.”
Wu received a certificate, a medal, and a signed letter from President Biden for completing 285 hours of community service in a year. Most of his volunteer hours were dedicated to the Trauma Intervention Program (TIP) of Northern Nevada.
Wu asked a Sage Ridge counselor for volunteer opportunities related to psychology. He completed AP Psychology in 11th grade and plans to enroll in a Child Psychology course at Truckee Meadows Community College while balancing his Upper School classes. The counselor recommended TIP and Wu began working with the organization in Feb. 2023.
TIP requires extensive and intensive training. And when the organization helps people work through trauma in real time, not one day of training can be missed. Commitment and persistence are easy for Wu. Perhaps most challenging was that Wu’s training sessions required him to break out of his comfort zone.
"Everyone was a college student or older,” Wu said. “No peers. It was out of my comfort zone because I’m used to hanging around classmates.”
On-call shifts are 12 hours long and volunteers must complete 36 hours a month. TIP is called when needed by emergency services and certified volunteers are dispatched after the first responder. When TIP is requested, Wu must drive to the scene. Sometimes he has multiple calls in one shift.
"One time I had three calls in one shift. I was called out at 10 p.m., went to a scene, got back at 11:30 p.m. Ten minutes later I was called out again. I finished that call around 1:30 a.m. On the way home, I got another call. I had to travel to Sparks. Finished that one at 4:30 a.m.”
The experience working with TIP is one that Wu cherishes.
"This was the most I’ve ever matured from anything,” Wu said. “It is a big learning opportunity. In training, they teach a lot of communication skills and emotional first aid. I’m seeing things that 90% of people my age do not see or deal with. Helping people cope with traumatic situations and comfort them with 80% listening and 20% speaking. They need someone to listen to them.”
In some situations, Wu is handling communication between the survivors of trauma, their families, and emergency responders and advocating for the people he is sent to help. TIP provides debriefing and a support system for volunteers, as well, knowing that their team needs an outlet for communication, too.
TIP of Northern Nevada Executive Director Gabrielle Totton is proud of Wu’s award, the growth he has experienced, and the impact he has had on the TIP organization and the Nevada region he serves.
"We are so thrilled to have Ethan on our volunteer team,” Totton said. “He came to training a very quiet young man and walked out with a whole new level of confidence in the work he was setting out to do in our community. Our training is fairly intense, so it was great to see Ethan jump in with both feet and truly immerse himself in the lessons. By the end of training, he was role-playing some of the most difficult scenarios like a pro. His fellow trainees were equally as impressed with his confidence and skills.”
Totton also emphasized the value Wu has brought to their team of volunteers.
"Ethan has been a wonderful addition to our team. We always appreciate our community youth stepping up to volunteer with TIP because it is such a different volunteer experience. It can be very intimidating for even the most seasoned of volunteers, but Ethan brings his very best to every call, as noted by his fellow volunteers and emergency responders on scene.”
Commitment to community is a theme in Wu’s life. In 8th grade, Wu won a President’s Volunteer Service Award for completing 100 service hours. In 8th grade, Wu lived in Southern California and earned volunteer hours performing with his orchestra, including at senior centers and traveling to China to play in isolated communities. Wu has played the erhu, a Chinese two-stringed bowed musical instrument, for nine years. He likes to perform at Sage Ridge graduation and coffeehouses, a student talent showcase, as well as at festivals in the region.
"I'm obviously biased with regard to TIP, but am confident this program, from training to call execution, is one of the best opportunities for young kids looking to give back in the community,” Totton said. “Our program provides a front-row seat to the reality of life. Our volunteers respect the emergency responders among us out there risking their lives every day to keep our community safe. TIP volunteers also have a deep appreciation for just how precious life is—that everything can change in a second. For just these two reasons alone, TIP is a worthy cause. I believe Ethan would agree with that, having the experience that he does as a TIP volunteer.”
Congratulations, Ethan, on a well-deserved award!