Teen Ambassadors Make Connections, Provide Service

Entering its eighth year, the program will have its largest class ever in 2023-24

Fall 2023 Teen Ambassadors

The start of a new school year is upon us, and for a select group of students in the local area, that means a new chance to give back at The Children’s Inn at NIH. Recently, this year’s class of Teen Ambassadors met at The Inn for an orientation session that marked the start of their program. They went on tours of The Inn and the NIH Clinical Center, met Inn staffers and families, and learned what events and activities were to come as the year progressed.

“We are looking forward to having a great year with this Teen Ambassador class,” said Senior Volunteer Engagement Manager Meghan Smith, who coordinates the program. “This is our largest class yet and we are excited to welcome so many new members. The teens will have the unique opportunity to learn from experts in their field, help at activities, and fundraise for The Inn.”

The Teen Ambassador program was started in 2016 as a way to unite passionate middle and high school students, aged 12 to 18, to support The Children’s Inn’s mission. It encourages teen leaders to engage in philanthropic efforts and begin a path to nonprofit leadership by supporting The Inn through volunteering, fundraising, and special activities.

photo of Teen Ambassadors at The Inn

This year’s Teen Ambassador class gathers around on a tour of the NIH Clinical Center

The popular program received an overwhelming number of applications for the 2023-24 school year, and features the largest cohort in the eight-year history of the program with 25 Teen Ambassadors. Many of those, like rising high school seniors Aanya and Jinara, are returning to the program for another year of involvement. Others, like Lily, are coming to the program for the first time.

Aanya, who started in the Teen Ambassador program during middle school, singles out her interactions with the families at The Inn as a highlight of her experience. She has even parlayed her Teen Ambassador experience into further volunteer opportunities at The Inn, helping run science experiments to get younger residents excited about the wide world of science. 

“I think I want to go into research,” Aanya explained. And she hopes to continue interacting with the families at The Inn even after she goes off to college. “I want to keep the science experiments going when I come back on breaks. I want to support them wherever I end up.”

For Jinara, who was introduced to the program by a family friend who is involved with the Women for the Inn[LG1]  (WINN) program, the chance to continue making a difference in the lives of the families at The Inn brought her back for a second year.

“I really love to be with the patients and their families,” she smiled. “I love hearing about all their different experiences. Each one is super unique. It’s really fun to see their smiles. They’re going through something very difficult in their lives, so I really enjoy bringing something fun to their days.”

Like Aanya, Jinara looks forward to remaining involved after she heads off to college and plans to volunteer during breaks from school. The Teen Ambassador alumni program is brand new this year, and the long-term goal for Smith is to continue the connection with the young leaders who have been involved. She makes it a point to stay in touch with former Ambassadors, maintaining relationships which she has built over her eight years at The Inn and is looking forward to the first official communication going out to alumni this fall.

For Lily, an 11th grader, the orientation was not just her first official day as a Teen Ambassador, it was her first-ever visit to The Children’s Inn. It did not take long for her to feel excited and enthusiastic about the year to come.

“I interviewed for the program and it went well, and when I got the position I was thrilled,” she said. “I’m really excited to be here. I want to go into medicine [for my career], but I wasn’t sure how I would handle the personal interactions that a doctor has, so that made this experience very appealing to me.”

A member of the Biomedical Club at her high school, which aims to teach high school students some of the basics of the medical profession, Lily is not just looking forward to the practical benefits she hopes to get as a Teen Ambassador. She also cannot wait to share her excitement for her favorite holiday with the families at The Inn.

“I’m excited for Halloween,” Lily laughed. “I love Halloween, it’s the best holiday by far. The October meeting will be our first chance to have real interactions with the families, so I’m really looking forward to that.”

Over the course of the year, the Teen Ambassadors will be trained to be stewards of social service, gaining valuable experience, leadership training, and service hours. The goals of the program include the cultivation of community awareness and investment in The Inn, as well as education, engagement, and inspiration of teens about the nonprofit sector both in general and as a potential career.

There are five full meetings of the Ambassadors through the course of the year, with the first one happening in October to prepare for fall and Halloween. They will also assist with other Inn programs throughout the year, and will be expected to organize and support a fundraiser or collection drive producing either funds or much-needed items from The Inn’s Wish List. They will represent The Inn as an “Official Ambassador” at various community service events or fundraisers and will complete at least one off-site service project as part of their commitment.

Though applications for the 2023-24 year are now closed, interested teens who want to get involved next year will be encouraged to apply when the applications open on April 1, 2024. The application process will be open for a month, with more information available for interested applications at the Teen Ambassadors page of The Children’s Inn website.

photo of winter wonderland at The Inn

Last year’s Teen Ambassadors at the annual Winter Wonderland event