National Runaway Safeline

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Jeremy Johnson is the Volunteer of the Month for December 2021!

Jeremy joined training in February 2021. Jeremy has been an actor for many years and bravely decided on a career change in the middle of a pandemic! Jeremy consistently occupies the Friday afternoon shift, just as the chat volume picks up. Because of this, Jeremy is nearly always one of the top 5 chatters every month. Jeremy has been noted by his supervisors to take initiative on his shifts, go above and beyond for the youth he serves and always a joy to work with.

NRS: What made you decide to volunteer with NRS?

Jeremy: Maybe it’s bit self-serving (editor note: it isn’t!), I’d been in acting my whole life and am now going into grad school. Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Northeastern University. My advisor told me that I might try volunteering with NRS as a way to get my feet wet. Now I’m at the end of my first year (3 semesters and am set to graduate in 2023).

NRS stood out to me because at that time, nearly at the height of the “second wave” of the pandemic in early 2021, not a lot of places were looking for volunteers or had a remote option. NRS was a great fit!

NRS: What keeps you coming back to volunteer week after week?

Jeremy: Though I still haven’t met anyone in person, but within the remote format, volunteering with NRS has been a friendly and professional group to work with. It’s been a very satisfying experience overall.

Sometimes it’s hard to gauge how much you’ve helped a young person, especially in the long term. In fact, it’s probably impossible to know what steps they’re going to make, if any, when your chat is finished. But, the responses that I get are generally positive and appreciative. Youth I talk to seem to benefit from resources or the fact that someone is speaking with them empathetically and without judgment. It feels good to provide that.

NRS: Tell us something you’ve learned from your experiences volunteering with us?

Jeremy: The more I do this and the more I study, we talk about how to deal with mental health concerns all the time. I find that now it doesn’t freak me out. A child is expressing suicidal thoughts in a chat, it is emotional but I don’t find myself freaking out about it now. It might be akin to being in medicine and seeing blood somewhere all the time, it’s not that you don’t care but it’s not shocking anymore. I’ve definitely developed empathy but now I know I’ve also developed my ability to “stay in frame” and keep the youth’s situation centered.

NRS: Give us a Fun Fact about yourself that you don’t think someone would be able to guess just by meeting you.

Jeremy: I have been an actor all my life. I’ve been a member of the actor’s union for 37 years. Joined the union when I was only 12 years old. Been based almost entirely in theater. A few commercials in my early 20’s and 30’s. It’s been a great career, but very challenging. I’ve been poking around with changing course and the pandemic seems to be the push I needed. 

NRS: What would you say to someone who was thinking of volunteering with NRS?

Jeremy: Don’t hesitate. If you have the time to do the 40-hour training (and it was challenging with everything else going on in life) then you should do it. It’s flexible, the org is professional and helpful. It’s rewarding, even on the days you feel like you might not be helping someone. It was exactly what I was searching for.

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