Tiffany Pham spent the summers of 2018 and 2019 working at VA Central Office in Washington D.C. She was a student volunteer in the Office of Management Review. A 2020 graduate of the Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia, Tiffany is heading off to college this fall.
She recalled her time at VA: “It was two summers well spent. It was such a great experience to have the opportunity to work in a professional environment. It was my very first experience working inside of an office. I acquired many ‘soft skills,’ such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management.”
Through VA’s Voluntary Service program, students have the opportunity to work in a professional environment and be mentored by dedicated staff who consistently find the extra time to extend themselves to aid in the personal and professional development of students who volunteer at VA.
“Experience boosted my confidence”
While students working at VA Headquarters rarely have the opportunity for engaging with Veteran patients in the health care environment, Pham said that her “experience was so positive it boosted my confidence. I went into my first part-time job interview talking about my internship experience.”
Pham then went back to school after those summers fully engaged in Junior ROTC and playing cello and golf. Her mentors at VA even wrote college and scholarship letters of recommendation.
With glowing references and two seasons of volunteer hours, she earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2018, 2019 and a merit scholarship of $100,000 for all four years at the “school of her dreams.”
“One of the best pieces of advice I received was to follow your passion and invest in what you love.” An academic scholar, Pham had no plans to let go of her love for golf. She will enter Mount St. Mary’s University as a Division I student athlete, extending her 4-year high school golf career and an additional 3-year scholarship from Army ROTC.
Experience at VA impacted her life
Pham wrote all of her VA mentors to tell them about her college selection and scholarship, but mostly to thank them for her experience.
“One common question I found in scholarship applications and interviews was, ‘What experience has impacted your life the most?’” Without hesitation, she said, “I couldn’t help but share my positive professional experience and the people I met at VA. I’m just so deeply grateful.”
VA extends a special congratulations to Tiffany Pham for her extraordinary success and gratitude for her dedicated service to VA as a volunteer. At Mount St. Mary’s, she’ll major in neuroscience with a pre-med track. We can only hope that her journey will one day lead back to VA.
It’s one more reminder of the value of our volunteer programs within VHA. We’re building the next generation of public service employees with a passion to serve our nation’s Veterans.
Sabrina C. Clark is director of VA Voluntary Service.