Drew Cannon gladly gives up one day a week during his summer vacation to help others, and he considers the act worth every effort that it takes.
"I just enjoy being able to help people," said the 16-year-old Martinez teen.
Drew, the son of Olin and Pam Cannon, has been a junior volunteer at University Hospital in Augusta for the past two years. He spends three hours a week during the school year helping patients find their way around the hospital and assisting in assigned departments.
"There are a very limited number of students who actually have the time to volunteer during the school year," said Zell Ruczko, the service assistant in the Volunteer Services Department at University Hospital. "During the summer, Drew works in the Access Department in the mornings, where he transports patients to the various areas for testing, and in the afternoon he works in the cardiac pulmonary department. He helps set up patients on monitors, cleans the monitors and is learning how to work the automated blood pressure machine."
The junior volunteer program at University Hospital is open to students ages 14-17. Students must commit to volunteering at least one eight-hour day during the summer months, with the option of staying on as a volunteer during the school year.
Interested students are invited to call the volunteer services department at (706) 774-8877 in January and February for next year's round of appointments. Interviews are conducted in April, and students are selected and assigned areas to volunteer in before the end of the school year. An orientation session is held in June before volunteering begins.
"I think this program speaks volumes about the youngsters who participate in it," Ruczko said. "I think it says that they are very motivated, have a sense of caring and want to help others; they don't just want to sit at home and do nothing."
Drew agrees that the satisfaction he derives from volunteering is far greater than any other activity he enjoys during his time away from school.
"I like being able to talk to the patients and make them feel better," said Drew, a rising junior at Augusta Christian Schools.
Sixty-six teens representing Columbia, Richmond, Aiken, Lincoln and Edgefield counties are members of this year's junior volunteer program at University Hospital, Ruczko said, with more than 20 area high schools represented, in addition to home-schooled and private school students.
"I think we don't hear enough about the good things kids do and they are out there," she said. "Drew's always helpful and on time and he's willing to do whatever they ask him to do. He's dedicated to his patients."
Drew is planning to enter a profession in the medical field, with chemistry as a strong possibility. His time in the program has helped to serve as a springboard for that decision.
"This program gives students the opportunity to see what things are out there," Ruczko said. "Sometimes you have to figure out what you don't like in order to determine what you do want to do. I tell the students that that's half the battle."
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