Over thirty teenagers volunteered over 2,100 hours during a six-week period this summer at William Beaumont Army Medical Center as part of the American Red Cross Summer Youth Volunteer Program.
The program welcomed teenagers ages 14-17 to volunteer at the hospital to gain work experience and familiarize themselves with both military and healthcare settings.
"The program helped (the volunteers) get used to the hospital setting, if it's something they are interested in," said Patricia Jedynak, a clinical volunteer with the American Red Cross at WBAMC and the youth lead for the summer program. "It's giving them a stepping stone into the military career and also the medical career."
Responsibilities ranged from administrative to interaction with patients and are geared toward the socioemotional development of the volunteers.
"She seems more mature and more comfortable," said Jeannie Cruze, mother of 14-year-old Madisyn Cruze, one of 32 youth volunteers in the program. "I think it was good for her to work with other kids who are interested in the same thing, they bonded a lot faster because of it."
For Madisyn, a sophomore in high school, the experience goes beyond community service hours. As part of the health care professional preparation program she is enrolled in, students can obtain college credit or certifications right out of high school, preparing Madisyn for a career in health care.
"I like to help people," said Madisyn. "I learned a lot. I learned how to work with (patients)."
The experience also helped Madisyn appreciate her mother's occupation, a registered nurse at WBAMC's Department of Radiology, and encouraged her to follow in her footsteps into the medical field.
"I want to be an RN like my mom, or a vet, or doctor," said Madisyn.
Madisyn's daily duties welcomed her to explore health care professions from histologists, who prepare and study diseased tissue, to assisting laboring moms with their needs, the volunteer work offered a variety of experiences for the young volunteers.
"I was in pathology and watched them examine biopsies under the microscope, I was helping nurses take bottles and stuff for the babies and got to see (an amputated) foot because it was infected," said Madisyn, with enthusiasm. "(Other teenagers) probably have not seen stuff like that. They've probably been sleeping, eating, and staying at home watching videos (throughout the summer)."
Although schedules fluctuated, with some volunteers only working 40 hours over the summer and others working over 200 hours, the summer program instituted responsibility in the youth volunteers.
"(Volunteers) had to be responsible for themselves, their parents couldn't help them," said Jedynak. "They had to build structure and go to their supervisor when they needed them, they jumped into an actual adult setting which better prepares them than people who are entering the workforce in their twenties."
"She seems more mature and more comfortable," said Jeannie Cruze. "I think it was good for her to work with other volunteers who are interested in the same thing (health care). They bonded a lot faster because of it. I think the whole experience opened her eyes to what we do in the medical field."
The impact of the youth volunteers also expands beyond a helping hand by serving beneficiaries of all generations with their needs.
"When volunteers are (helping with records), they are doing it for Soldiers who may be retiring so they're helping them start a whole new chapter in their lives, even though you didn't think such a small thing can impact but the outcome helps," said Jedynak.
Approximately 70 volunteers contribute to the American Red Cross daily mission of supporting service members, families, retirees and veterans at WBAMC.