A 40-hour work week is typical for most full-time paid jobs. But Stephen Bennett, from Covington, Virginia, a senior majoring in forestry in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, typically pulls at least 40 hours a week on a volunteer basis at the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad.
“You have to love it to do it. Some people will ask me how I can spend so much time here, but it’s not about the time or hours we spend here each day,” Bennett said. “It goes by really fast if you have fun doing it.”
Bennett, who is set to graduate May 15, began volunteering at the station his first year. “We are all full-time students in addition to volunteering a minimum of 20 hours, with many serving more than 40. It can be difficult sometimes to balance – trying to keep your grades up and do this. I’ve figured out how to manage my time. It’s something I’ve learned here that I don’t think I could have learned anywhere else.”
The last two years, he has served as the squad’s chief, providing leadership to the organization and building positive relationships with the university.
“Stephen is a truly exceptional young man. He has been an excellent leader of the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad and has a very unique ability to look five to ten years down the road when planning for the future of the squad,” said Kevin Foust, chief of Virginia Tech Police.
One of Bennett’s most memorable calls from the rescue squad was for a student who wasn’t breathing. Police and the squad performed CPR and rushed him to the hospital. He later made a full recovery. What stuck out wasn’t the call, but that Bennett got to meet the student and his family later.
“There was a lot of good we did that day, but he was meant to be here for a reason. I don’t think it was his time yet,” Bennett said. “Most of the time, when you drop someone off at the hospital, you never see them again. His family was so appreciative of the help and we got to meet them. It was real unique.”
Now, Bennett is preparing to return home to his family’s business. “My grandfather owns a sawmill and my father owns a harvesting operation. They’ve been gearing up for me to get out of school and we plan on growing the family business a little more and see exactly what we can do once I get home.”
He will also continue volunteering with the rescue squad at home where he started his love of EMS in high school. “I’m still an active member of the rescue squad back home. I plan to go back and figure out the right place for me. I’ve gotten to experience the unique aspects of a busier station, plus building relationships with the university. I’d like to take that back home and see if we can incorporate some of the things I’ve learned down here.”
Bennett has also offered to continue helping the Virginia Tech Rescue Squad in any way he is able, despite being a couple of hours away.
“He and I met weekly throughout the year and I will miss him very much,” Foust said. “We did not limit our conversations to just the rescue squad, he would also keep me up to date with his classes and other things in his life. I greatly enjoyed getting to know him and look forward to continuing our friendship.”