NEWBERRY — Local students volunteered their time and received college credit in the community as part of Newberry County Memorial Hospital’s Junior Volunteer program this summer.
The program wrapped up last week at the hospital.
Angela Bowers, coordinator of volunteer services for NCMH said the program was originally the candy striper program that most remember of the volunteers in red striped uniforms. Bowers, who has been in her position for seven years, said the junior volunteer program was already in place when she arrived.
Students ages 14-20 interested in a career in health care fill out an application, according to Bowers, along with a submitting a letter of recommendation from a teacher before they are considered for the program. Although most are interested in health care, Bowers said some simply just want to volunteer their time to the community.
On their applications, Bowers said they also list their interests on their applications so that they can be placed in areas of NCMH that they may enjoy most.
Their first year in the program, students typically stay with Bowers to “learn the ropes.” As they advance in future years, they have more freedom to work in other parts of the hospital.
“The goal is that they learn respect and how to treat people — social skills,” Bowers said.
During their first year, Bowers said it lets her get to know the students more personally and to see what kind of people they are and what they are willing to do as volunteers.
“In this setting, they must be willing to do just about anything,” Bowers said about the tasks that volunteers complete.
This year NCMH had so many students apply for volunteer positions they had to split the program into two sections — one in June, the other during the month of July.
Altogether, Bowers said they had 48 students in the program this summer. Different from last year, students in this year’s program were required to work for four weeks for four hours one day per week.
Last year and in previous years, Bowers said students worked a total of six weeks out of seven available. The program was altered this year to accommodate more participation.
“We had a great return of students coming back this year,” Bowers said.
Students throughout Newberry County were represented in the program, including students from out of the county.
Taylor Dunkley, 15, was one of those students. Dunkley from Columbia spent time in diagnostic imaging as well as in the ICU as a volunteer.
“It was interesting to see everything in there (ICU), but sad in some ways too,” Dunkley said.
Dunkley is also a home school student, and said she is able to count the volunteer hours as extra credit as or count her classes as honors because of the volunteer work.
Along with her work at NCMH, Dunkley also volunteered at Lexington Hospital.
“I wanted to compare smaller to larger hospitals,” Dunkley said. “I’m trying to decide if I want to go into the medical field.”
Bowers said they do not turn away students whether they are enrolled in a local high school, are out of Newberry County or are a part of a home-school program such as Dunkley.
Darian Gilliam, 16, from Whitmire was completing his third year with the program this summer and has hopes to become a doctor, specifically a bone specialist. Gilliam said he enjoys helping people and learning new things and thinks he may attend the Medical University of South Carolina following graduating from high school.
Bradley Burleson, 16, also of Whitmire, was interested in pharmacy this summer during his second year in the program. As part of volunteering, , Burleson said he checked for outdated medications and delivered IV bags and medications. After high school, Burleson said he hopes to attend the University of South Carolina to study pharmacy.
As a part of being coordinator, Bowers said she spends countless amounts of time making spreadsheets of volunteers, when they are available to work and what interests they have within the medical field. All applications for the program were due in April and all accepted students attended a mandatory orientation in May.
Bowers said she encourages the students daily to ask questions and learn as much as they can.
Tranisha Hardy, 16, a student at Mid-Carolina High School, worked on the hospital’s third floor this summer. It was Hardy’s second year volunteering.
Last year, Hardy said she volunteered in the physical therapy. Hardy said she made rounds, checked on patients, made beds, and help patients with their baths. After graduation, Hardy hopes to become a nurse practitioner and possibly attend Lander College, Clemson or Duke universities.
“It’s really helpful,” Hardy said about the program. “It’s a lot of learning with experiences you get here.”