Hello, my name is Jessica Doyle and I am a senior at UCF who is graduating soon with my degree in Elementary Education.
In order to give you a full glimpse of my journey with PedsAcademy, I have to start in August of 2016. It was then that my mom was diagnosed with stage four liver cancer. It was a sudden shock and a blow to my family. She immediately started weekly chemo treatment at a hospital in Tampa. While she went there for chemotherapy what she ended up finding was a hospital staff that was encouraging, supportive, and saw her through some of the darkest days that she had yet faced. It was that experience that inspired me to apply when I heard about the opportunity to join PedsAcademy. I saw it as a chance to be the support and encouragement that I knew from experience is so vital in a hospital setting.
I remember being nervous the first couple days…I was not sure if school would be a priority or something that the kids would even want to do. Yet, what I found out was that they were more than happy to do it, and they often looked forward to it. There many times where I would be standing in the elevator with one of our Dash robots, when a patient would get in and excitedly ask me if I was coming to their room next. There were other times where I would step into a patient’s room, knowing little about them, only to find out that the lesson I had prepared was on a topic that they loved. And to add on to that, as our new PedsAcademy classroom opened up, we found that there are kids are requesting to come in- sometimes several times in one day. What I recognized is that PedsAcademy was bringing a sense of exploration and excitement to education. But in an even bigger sense, it was bringing normalcy back to the kids lives, and a bit of stability in a setting that was ever-changing and often times scary. What I also found was that not only were the kids excited, but so were the parents. Many seemed relieved as their child’s education was another thing for them to worry about along with their health. Often times I saw tears of gratefulness and received hugs of appreciation. It made me realize that children in hospitals are in many ways a forgotten demographic and are often neglected by the academic world. PedsAcademy has decided to step up to the plate to not only recognize the need, but to meet the need and I was grateful to be apart of the process that met those needs.
Little did I know, though, just how much that process would have an impact on me. As I said before, I knew this was an amazing opportunity and I was eager to help the patients in the hospital learn. Yet what I could not have predicted was how brave, genuine, eager to learn, and happy these kids were in the midst of so much pain, hardship, and confusion and how much they would teach me in return. It was truly inspiring in more ways than I could even imagine. There were many times where I would step out of a room and have to take a moment to pause and reflect on the experience I just had and the resilience of the children and their families. These opportunities were so unique and were possible because of the resources, technology, and people who were willing to make it happen.
PedsAcademy gave me a humbling opportunity to serve and grow not only as a future teacher and current student, but as a person. I am walking away with invaluable knowledge that will affect the way I teach and treat not only my students and their families, but the people around me. It has helped to widen my horizon when it comes to how I view the world and I am so grateful for it all.