What’s the rush?


Nicole Barrocas, Writer

Walking through the halls in school, we are constantly hearing students talk about how a break from school, from all of the stress, would do them well.

For the majority of students, the plan is to graduate high school to then go straight to college and get a degree. Finally, after so many years studying, the plan is to find a job and work for the rest of their lives until they become elderly and retire. What is the rush to follow this schedule society gives us when we have the opportunity to have new experiences, experiences we do not learn in school, experiences that might change our lives?

Life is short and it is essential to take advantage of every second. After graduating high school a break to travel or do something you ordinarily may not have the time for, could have an immense impact in your life.

My older brother, as well as my cousin and a group of their friends are on the journey of a lifetime. They are currently part of a gap year program called Year Course in Israel. They spent the first semester living in Jerusalem, traveling all around Israel, and occasionally to Europe on the weekends, while taking classes in the mornings from Monday to Friday. They took Hebrew (which is one of three official languages in Israel), Judaic studies, and other very interesting classes that would be considered electives in SJS. In the beginning of January, they moved to Tel Aviv for the remainder of their gap year. They spent all of January and part of February volunteering in different places in Israel.

My brother, Toby (class of 2018), is volunteering in a rehab center where he is learning the unfortunate effects drug addiction has on the human body.

Samara Kleiman (class of 2018) recently began volunteering in the The Magen David Adom, Israel’s national emergency medical, disaster, ambulance and blood bank service. The name means “Red Star of David.” There are many different ways to be a part of this service, including a volunteer program called Magen David Adom Overseas. To volunteer, you take a rigorous 10 day course that includes 12 hour daily classes and a written and practical exam that must be passed in the end. Completion of this course certifies you as a basic first responder. Once you finish, depending on your requests, you get placed in a station and begin your volunteer service. Samara completed the course and passed the exam.

There are different shifts that are available to a volunteer. Usually, Magen David Adom Overseas volunteers get the morning and night shifts, while after school Israeli student volunteers get the afternoons. You get assigned an ambulance each shift with a medic and a driver.

Samara volunteers in the morning shifts.

January 29, 2019 she witnessed a death for the first time.

(caution… the following account contains details that may be difficult for some readers to read)…

“Elana and I are walking to our station at 6:30 in the morning when we see an ambulance car waving at us. We are signaled by the driver to join him. We cross the street in a sprint. We hop on. His name is Roni and the medic is the girl from bat sheirut. He cracks a few jokes and we know its going to be a fun shift. Our first call is a 12 year old girl who had fainted. We get to her house and meet her frantic mom at the door. She has regular levels of blood pressure and blood sugar, which is good. We still take her to the hospital to understand why she fainted. As first aid responders, our job ends when we make it to the hospital. So we do as we are told, we take the gurney back to the ambulance and wipe it down. We add new sheets and push it back into the car. We wait for the medic to finish the papers and we drive away. We are driving aimlessly as we have no calls. We finally get a call and our driver yells “CPR”. At first, we thought he was joking. He had been joking all morning about how medics want there to be CPR so it can be an interesting call. We get to the street and see a frantic older woman waving at us. I see my driver and medic tense up. We park and grab the AMBU bag, oxygen tank, and the life pack. I’m holding the oxygen. We rush in and find a man laying on the floor, lifeless. He has no pulse. We begin CPR. His son begins compressions but can’t move pass his nerves. The medic gently taps him out and he begins formal compressions. I hook the oxygen tank to the oxygen mask. I give it to my medic. She begins to give the breaths after 30 compressions. Elana turns on the life-pack. It is placed on the man on the ground. He begins to bleed out from the tubes. He’s gurgling everywhere. The breaths aren’t working. There is no pulse. More and more medics come to the scene. Compressions and breathes continue. I get motioned to hold the airway. I grab his head and pull his chin back. 2 breaths for every 30 compressions. I look up to see his son watching. I hear crying in the living room. The man has a catheter in between his legs. 2 breaths for every 30 compressions. Shloshim. 2 breaths. Shteim. His eyes are open, staring at me. They were glossy and almost yellow. They weren’t moving. I kept eye contact with him, just in case he could see me. More breaths follow compressions. My back hurts. Elana breathes in and out to help me keep a good pattern. Finally the tall man who came without a MDA uniform but with his bag yells something out in Hebrew. The man doing compressions stops and I continue giving breaths. I knew what he said but pretended to not understand Hebrew. “Sorry guys, you can stop now.” I stop. My driver instructs me to clean the filter and the compression machine in the kitchen. Elana and I walk to the kitchen as the family is screaming in agony in the living room. I wash the blood off the viral filter and tube in their sink. Once they are clean and dry we walk to the ambulance. Neither of us looked into the living room, just directly at the door onto the ambulance. Once in the ambulance I see a woman walk up to one of the ICU medics to ask what was going on. She seemed to be related to the family. Of course she was. She bends over onto the car and sobs. I stop looking. The medic is talking to me. She is telling me we have to take inventory of all the supplies in the ambulance because we are going on a refill run. I grab the sheet and take inventory with Elana. We need a viral filter, a new life pack sheet, some blankets, bandaids, tourniquets. We finish and the driver gets into the car. We drive back to the station to grab the supplies.”

After graduating high school a break to travel or do something you ordinarily may not have the time for, could have an immense impact in your life.”

This  is one of many opportunities that students can experience if they choose to take a gap year. This type of experience is not one that can be taught in a classroom. Depending on your interests, there are countless programs that can fit you.

Toby and Samara recently arrived in Rwanda, where they will remain for 3 weeks to volunteer in public schools to teach kids English. While volunteering, they are meeting new people and learning about different cultures. This experience is definitely one they will never forget.

This gap year is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I hope I will be able to be a part of in a little over a year. Not only this gap year, but all gap years are amazing experiences.

Pros of taking a gap year before high school:

  1. It gives you time to think and figure you out what you want
  2. You learn responsibility at a different level
  3. It may help you submit a more impressive application (or help enhance essays, etc)
  4. You can earn some money to fund your education

Cons of taking a gap year before high school:

  1. It puts you a year behind
  2. You take the risk of losing momentum
  3. Gap years can be expensive