A Passion For Service | PART I

Written by: Dachele Cuke

Watching the news can be a nightmare, with COVID-19 spreading throughout the world and other natural disasters still occurring — it’s hard to not just focus on the bad. Through these dark times, there is always room for light and the people who use that light. From doctors to nurses, to other professionals, to volunteers and healthcare workers, we thank you. Your service on the frontlines is greatly appreciated. The passion for service is needed now more than ever. In this article, we want to highlight a future doctor, a present volunteer, and an excellent student at WAU – her name is Ava Abtahi, and she’s been using her passion for serving like never before.

Ava moved to the United States almost nine years ago from Iran, Persia. The situation in Iran is not the best for women, and her parents planned since she was a child, to make sure she could come to a place where she could be free to be everything she could imagine and more. “I’m so glad my parents decided for me to come here. I love this country and all the opportunities I am given!”

When it was time for Ava to choose a college, she was drawn to WAU. To her, it was merely a gut feeling. “I could have gone to any school, Howard in DC or New York, but I just felt that this school would be the school that I would excel in. And I’m glad that I’ve chosen WAU because I’m sure if I were at other schools, I would not be able to do the things that I’m doing here.”

Ava is double majoring in pre-med biology and is also doing an interdisciplinary honor major in the WAU Honors College. She also highlights the Honors College for pushing her to be herself and calls it “the backbone of building who she is.” She mentions how WAU is an excellent, small community with a family dynamic. “The professors know you by name, not a number,” she smiles.

The excitement of coming to WAU was thrilling for Ava — but then COVID-19 hit spring semester of her freshman year. “It felt so weird, but the key is to adapt,” she continues, “we are always taught in our courses to adapt to the situation, and I really appreciate that we got training prior to what’s going on.”

As the coronavirus continued to escalate, Ava remembers sitting down and watching the news as Gov. Larry Hogan mentioned that the state of Maryland needed help with testing and wanted volunteers. Before she knew it, in a few days, Ava went to work on getting the 25 to 35 certifications and training to be a first responder and become a volunteer. At first, her family was reluctant, but after reassuring her mom that they took every precaution to keep all volunteers safe, they finally let her volunteer. “It’s in my blood! I basically got injected with that phrase from honors college that ‘we’re here to better serve others’, and I can’t hold myself not to help.”

Ava remembers on her first day of volunteering, she and the other volunteers tested around a thousand people. “I’m just happy to see other people in our area that were willing to risk their lives to go against something as big as COVID-19 and help the community.” Ava and the other volunteers would test for as long as 12-14 hour shifts. “I remember every time I came out; I would have this bruise everyone was getting. We had to wear three different types of masks for testing, so it left a mark”, she says, “even my ears were hurting with so many masks.”

The drive and passion Ava had to withstand the odds to serve others is one that gives hope in a dark time. We are thankful for what she has done for her community and continues to do. Please stay tuned for part II of Ava’s story next week and be inspired to walk through the gateway to service!

Link to Part II here: A Passion For Service Part 2

Ava with face mask marks from long shifts as a COVID-19 Volunteer
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