15 March 2017
For Thomas Theel, starting as a cadet sparked a passion for helping other young people excel with St John. Ten years on, Tom is now an influential Cadet Leader with the Unley Cadet Division, developing engaging learning programs and mentoring juniors and cadets. His leadership qualities and contribution through St John to the local community were recently recognised with the Bendigo Bank SAYC Young Leader of the Year Award (St John Awards Day 2016) and Young Citizen of the Year (Unley 2017).
You joined Cadets at 11, what made you first get involved?
It may have been a bit forward thinking of me, but I initially got involved with St John because I wanted to become a paramedic. I knew very little about St John or the cadet program it offered, I just knew it involved learning first aid and attending events. It turned out to be much more than that and I’m truly grateful for the opportunities I have been presented with and the skills I have acquired, not to mention the friendships I’ve forged.
What has been the best part of volunteering?
It’s just too hard to pick one so I’ll give you two! The first is the feeling of self-worth and pride you get when you realise that you can apply what you’ve learned and what you bring to the organisation to help someone. These feelings don’t just occur when you are out at an event, in fact, more often than not, I feel most proud in the divisional setting. Whether it’s a cadet achieving something great or just a little win for them, knowing that I may have been able to play just a small part is very satisfying. Second is the unique opportunities you get at such a young age. Creating a plan for the year, looking after the welfare of young people, representing an organisation to key stakeholders such as parents and businesses, and leading a team aren’t opportunities we would usually get outside St John.
What has been your most rewarding moment?
At last year ’s St John Awards Day I had the privilege of watching two of my cadets receive an award for saving a life after they, along with their adults, were able to successfully resuscitate a member of the public at an event. It was wonderful to be able to witness what would be a very proud moment in their lives.
Have you met any challenges as a Cadet Leader?
There have been many challenges that I’ve faced and that’s one of the reasons I love the position. I am often confronted with new unexpected situations or given an opportunity to challenge myself. I think there is a lot of value to challenging yourself and what you believe your limits to be. An example would be that this year I have been given the chance to look after the city youth vigil. Event planning is an area I haven’t had much experience in so I’m excited to see how I perform in the role.
What are you most proud of?
A proud moment I had recently was at the Unley Council Australia Day Awards where I was fortunate enough to receive the ‘Young Citizen of the Year’ award. It was certainly unexpected and a great honour to be recognised by the community I endeavour to serve.
Has anything interesting or unexpected happened?
Last year I was able to find and secure a venue for regional cadet competitions. As a result of being a liaison between the venue and St John I was able to see how a different part of the cadet program operated. It was certainly an interesting experience and has potentially sparked an interest in another area of our organisation.
What do you do in your day job? Where do you see your future career, and has St John shaped this at all?
Outside of St John I am a paramedic student at Flinders University. I’m not sure whether I see myself as a paramedic or continuing my study and pursuing a career in medicine. Through my time as a cadet I’ve shown interest in a multitude of careers including education and HR, in fact when I left school I started an HR degree.
However, continuous discussions with paramedics both inside and outside of St John proved to be too persuasive and I changed my degree to paramedic science, a decision I don’t regret at all.
Tom Theel (centre) receiving his Young Citizen of the Year award from City of Unley Mayor Lachlan Clyne, also pictured Hon. Rev. Dr Lynn Arnold AO