Article sponsored by the Portland Metropolitan Association of RealtorsÂ®. RealtorsÂ® Honors Local Teen For Helping NICU Babies and Families
Portland, OR (November 1, 2021) – The Portland Metropolitan Association of RealtorsÂ® (PMAR) is honored to present the annual Portland Future First Citizen Award and a $ 5,000 college scholarship to Catlin Gable School graduate Benjamin Olshin. PMAR’s Future First Citizen Award honors a high school student in the Metro Portland area who has made an extraordinary commitment to improving the quality of life in his community.
In 2017, Benjamin founded Babies With Books, a teen-led program where volunteers meet families with newborn babies at the NICU. Volunteers provide these families with books to read for their babies while at the NICU and educate them on the importance of reading for early literacy. Through her work, Olshin partnered with local hospital leaders in the Metro Portland area to develop reading programs at NICU and successfully implemented them at Randall Children’s Hospital, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center and Providence Portland Medical Center.
Olshin also recruited and trained 24 teenage volunteers for Babies With Books, and helped them integrate into the hospital and mentored them for their meetings with families. Olshin’s work has generated interest outside of the Portland area. Hospitals in other parts of the United States, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Qatar and the United Kingdom have requested access to the program so that they can create their own reading programs. at the NICU.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and interrupted in-person volunteering at hospitals, Babies With Books continued to serve NICU families by providing them with a welcome kit that included a book and literacy information. early. During this time, Olshin also worked with 39 NICU departments around the world to create the first US-based international read-a-thon, and the only NICU read-a-thon run by teenagers, to boost morale. and continue to support babies and their families. Before the reading marathon, only 67% of participating neonatal intensive care units had an NICU reading program. Subsequently, 97% of participating NICUs develop or have developed a similar reading program.
Olshin is attending Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri to study anthropology, sociology, and public health, and plans to earn a master’s degree in public health and attend medical school. Its goal is “to learn the tools to help create an improved health system in which culturally informed practices best promote health and well-being in the diverse communities of our world.”
Traditionally, this award is presented at the annual Banquet of Portland’s First Citizens. Due to COVID-19, this event did not take place in person and the award was handed out virtually. You will find more information on the First Citizen Award on www.pmar.org/portland-first-citizenaward
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