Describe an interest or activity that has been particularly meaningful to you.

The smell of twenty-seven kinds of chili and one style of barbecue wafted through the air at the Palo Alto Chili Festival. It was a perfect day on a summer weekend, one of many I had spent volunteering for the Palo Alto Fire Explorers. The morning was quiet as usual - a few Band-Aid cases and requests for sunscreen. Sprawled on an assembled cot under the shade of the booth, I was thinking of getting myself lunch when my radio started squawking: "Unknown medical emergency, respond Code 3 to field." I grabbed my trauma bag and jogged out of the booth. "10-4," I said. "I'm en-route."

As I ran down the gravel path, the pounding of my feet matched the beating of my heart. Medical terms and images from my Red Cross textbook floated through my mind. Memories also hovered - the simulated emergency scenarios I passed, my top score on the final examinations, the moment I was "knighted" with trauma shears by Tony Graham, chief advisor to the Palo Alto Fire Explorers. The recollections reassured me, but they could only partly bridge the chasm between uncertainty and confidence - for the rest of the distance, I would have to trust myself and jump.

I burst through a hedge of bushes and onto wet...

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