THE TOD SQUADRON Setting, reaching field goals

The squadron consistsof students nominatedby their high schoolguidance counselors or building principals.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The ward hallways at Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital are a little brighter today thanks to the decorating skills of area high school students who are members of the Tod Squadron.
Tod Squadron members not only spread a little cheer to hospitalized children but also get a chance to learn about the medical field and do other types of community service such as volunteer at the Health-O-Rama this Friday and Saturday at the Southern Park Mall, Boardman.
In the group: The Tod Squadron is a group of about 80 young people, a maximum of four from each of 20 area schools, who are nominated by guidance counselors or building principals for the program.
"We don't necessarily look for 'A' students, but students who participate must be capable of making up missed work," said Francine McBride, Tod Children's Hospital's community health education and youth program coordinator. The program began in 1984 and McBride became its coordinator in 1987.
"I take this group seriously. If they sign up for an activity, they are responsible for being there. If they have an unexcused absence, they are off the group," McBride said.
Tod Squadron members meet monthly at the hospital to discuss and sign up for upcoming events and projects, to become familiar with the hospital environment and interact with pediatric health-care professionals, and to learn more about career choices in the medical field.
Among those who participated in Monday's hallway decorating project were students from Brookfield, Austintown Fitch, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, Mathews in Vienna, Youngstown Ursuline, Struthers, Niles and South Range in North Lima.
They spent a couple of hours in the hospital lobby cutting out construction paper spring decorations. Students from other schools hung decorations in the children's ward.
Why they join: The students have varied reasons for being on the Tod Squadron.
Monica Sekak of Liberty, an Ursuline junior who plans to pursue pre-med in college, said she enjoys volunteer work, and, like Rachel Urban, also a junior at Ursuline, "loves working with little kids."
In addition to the feel-good aspects of the program, it is a chance for the young people, many of whom are considering careers in the medical field, to get first-hand information from hospital professionals about the training required and the reality of the jobs.
"You gain respect for what the doctors go through to become doctors, and appreciate them taking time to educate us," said Rachel Ferrara of Brookfield.
Some others, such as Juli Alter and Jennifer McPheron, both of Brookfield, were considering medical careers, but are leaning toward careers in education.
Jeff Johnston and Brad Johnson, seniors at South Range, both want careers in the medical field.
Johnston, who initially wanted to be a surgeon, said that career still interests him, but said he is looking at the medical research field.
Johnson, who is looking at physical therapy, said he likes working with kids and discovered he likes the hospital environment.
Amy Algeo, a junior who plays volleyball and softball at South Range, wants to work in sports medicine. Last week, as part of the program, she visited the hospital's physical therapy department.
Amanda Fleming, also a junior at South Range, who likes working with children and always has wanted to do something in the medical field, said the Tod Squadron experience has strengthened her resolve to go into the medical field.

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