Audrey Nelson Runs Stuffed Animals Drive To Support Hospitalized Youth

P.S.P. Fosters Next Generation’s Social Entrepreneurs

Christina Tanase, News Writer

Originating in 2018, the Pinewood Scholars Program started as a committee led by Head of Upper Campus Gabriel Lemmon and Head of School Scott Riches, calling for a diverse group of faculty from different disciplines to come together and create a class. P.S.P. is a flagship program for juniors and seniors in which students are invited to engage in design thinking, project-based learning, and community partnerships.

Over the course of junior year, P.S.P. students work together in groups of three to four students to create a mission-inspired project. In the process, they research social issues by watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, and exploring local nonprofits –– a process P.S.P. and literature teacher Michelle Gannon calls identity discovery.

“Throughout a teenager’s life, there are lots of things that they feel passionate about, but the question is what will they do with that energy — and this class gives them the beautiful opportunity to do something with it,” Gannon said.

During senior year, students have the opportunity to build upon what they learned the previous year, educate others, engage in socially conscious activities, and drive initiatives to affect genuine change through an individual project.

One such senior attempting to create change through P.S.P. is senior Audrey Nelson, who is particularly passionate about comforting children who live in the hospital long-term. Hospitalized herself for a month when she was young, Nelson was inspired by her experiences with hospital care packages, of which many she found lacking in personalization and comfort.

Audrey Nelson

To solve this issue, Nelson has launched a stuffed animals drive in order to provide the supplies necessary to create custom bundles. With those supplies, Nelson plans to create bundles based off of hospital patients’ hobbies and interests to improve their hospital stay. Hoping to partner with Fisher House Foundation, a home for children who are frequently hospitalized, the Veteran Affairs Hospital (VA Hospital) is fond of Nelson’s idea and expressed their need for customized care baskets to make their patients feel more at home.

“After interviewing a nurse who works at the VA Hospital, they made it clear that comfort is an issue in hospitals,” Nelson said.

Nelson hopes that her current efforts and future aspirations for partnering with larger organizations, like the Ronald McDonald House Charities, will lead to a greater impact in smaller communities.

At its core, Gannon hopes P.S.P. inspires and empowers students to become change- makers in the world outside of Pinewood.

“I would like them to realize that they can actually make a difference. That even though they may be only 16, 17, or 18 years old, they can truly walk away from this class having made an impact,” Gannon said.