Teens Trade Summer Vacation for Volunteer Experience
Aug 27, 2017 Cedars-Sinai Staff
Every summer, hundreds of Los Angeles teens flock to Cedars-Sinai. Trading in their beach wear for blue smocks, these students help out around the hospital as part of the Teen Volunteer Program.
The Teen Volunteer Program, part of Volunteer Services, began more than 30 years ago. Attracting more than 450 kids this summer, the program gives participants ages 14-18 an opportunity to get hands-on experience in a hospital setting.
"These young people are such great ambassadors for Cedars-Sinai in our community, and the medical center would not be the same without them," says Volunteer Coordinator Khyrysta Renteria.
Teen volunteers are assigned one 4-hour shift per week for the length of the summer session. Their responsibilities can include delivering flowers or magazines to patients, assisting at nursing stations or in the Helping Hand Gift Shop, filing paperwork, and answering phones.
"She thanked me for spending time with her and making sure she was OK. Moments like these are my favorites while volunteering."
While each student has their own motivation for joining the program, they are all united in their desire to help people in their community. First-year volunteer Faith Schuck decided to apply for the program after her grandmother's battle with cancer.
"Every trip was blessed with meeting new faces," says Faith, who is starting her senior year of high school this month. "Seeing how much they helped my family, I wanted to do the same for others."
The volunteers do not perform or observe medical and patient-care procedures, but the teens in the program gain valuable real-world experience.
"I offered to help an elderly visitor who looked lost and anxious find her husband. While we walked, the visitor and I talked about everyday things and she slowly became more and more calm," says high school senior Harrison Feinman, who's been in the program for 4 years. "When we got to her husband, she thanked me for spending time with her and making sure she was OK. Moments like these are my favorites while volunteering."
"As a teen volunteer, I get the special opportunity to devote my undivided attention to visitors and patients to truly make them feel cared for and comfortable," continued Harrison. "Making a positive impact on someone else's day makes me feel like I'm doing something to truly benefit my community."
"It is such a great experience and you get to learn so much, while also giving back to your community."
In addition to regularly assigned volunteer duties, the teens are also given the chance to join special programs like Research Week. The week-long dive into the world of stem cell science gives high school students one-on-one time with Cedars-Sinai medical investigators.
"I learned a lot about stem cells in addition to learning how labs work and how research is conducted," says Noah Danesh, a high school senior.
It's not uncommon for volunteers to come back year after year and continue to volunteer well into college or adulthood because of their positive experiences as a teen volunteer.
"It is such a great experience and you get to learn so much, while also giving back to your community," said Noah. "It is only a few hours a week, but has such a great impact on your life."