Shaneda Johnson remembers having the opportunity to volunteer at the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum as a teenager. She says not only was it her first taste of life as an adult, it also was an opportunity to develop the interpersonal skills she believed she needed.

(From left to right) Aaryn Levert-Kidd and Ashley Petty talk with teenage volunteers Jessica Grimes and Brandon Cox. More than 100 teens are volunteering at UAB Hospital this summer.
“It was an experience that enabled me to overcome being shy,” she says. “It really did two things — it helped me develop my social skills and gave me an idea of what it was really like to get up every morning and be somewhere on time. It gave me a sense of discipline.”

Johnson, an office associate in the Hospitalist Service, is a believer in the benefits of volunteering. So it’s no surprise she is one of many employees serving as mentors to teenagers in the UAB Hospital Summer Teen Volunteer Program. The program gives teenagers a hands-on look at the medical field and the working world.

“One of the best things about this program is that many of the teens are not volunteering because they are required to by their school; they’re doing it because they want to help their community and they want to learn,” says Carolyn Childers, volunteer coordinator. “This group really is some of the smartest kids I’ve ever met. They’re very self-sufficient, eager to learn and willing to go above and beyond.”

The Summer Teen Volunteer Program is split in two groups. The first group of 47 volunteers concluded its four weeks of service June 25. The second group begins its four weeks July 6.

Applications for the program are accepted during the spring every year. They are available on the Web at Twenty-nine departments accepted volunteers in June, and 31 departments will have 52 volunteers in July. The teens come Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and undertake numerous jobs, including escorting patients, filing, data entry, answering phones and helping with projects.

Some departments allow volunteers to shadow workers. They can watch as nurses and doctors give patient care, and aspiring nurses can learn to put a patient chart together.

“It’s an invaluable experience for any teenager, but especially those interested in entering the health-care field,” Childers says.

Exciting opportunities
Alexis Vance is one of those teenagers. The sophomore at the Alabama School of Fine Arts wants to go to college and learn to be a pediatric psychiatrist. She applied for the program because she wanted to see the hospital setting first hand.

“I wanted to see if I could handle the stress that goes on inside the hospital and handle the unexpected, because a lot of unexpected things happen here,” Vance says.

Vance worked closely with Johnson executing a number of jobs in Hospitalist Services during in her first summer as a volunteer. Johnson says the opportunity to tutor Vance gave her a great sense of satisfaction.

“It excites me because I feel like I’m teaching Alexis something she’s really interested in,” Johnson says. “I feel like I’m contributing in some way to her development, and hopefully I’ll spark an interest into something she hasn’t even thought about yet.” Johnson also has discovered that learning is a two-way street.

“The great thing is she’s not only learning things from me, I’m learning from her,” Johnson says. “I can show her how to do something on the computer and she can show me how she does the same thing, and maybe it’s a quicker way than how I learned. We actually help each other.”

A look at the future
Jessica Grimes, a Spain Park High School junior, is now in her third year as a volunteer. She’s working in the adult cardiology unit this year after working in the pediatric cardiology unit for the past two years.

Her career goal is to be an optometrist, and she says the experience she’s gained volunteering will help her as she pursues her college studies.

“If you want to be in health care and get a chance to see what it’s like to be in a hospital this is a fantastic experience,” Grimes says. “You get to really find out what it’s like helping people who are sick. I’m sure some teenagers think being a doctor or nurse is about money or power, but really it’s all about having the heart to take care of people, to look at them when they’re sick and want to do all you can to help them.”

Grimes saw firsthand the pressures involved in caring for the sick when she saw a patient flatline in her unit. The response of the medical personnel made a favorable impression on her.

“When you see how people respond and the knowledge they possess and how much they care for a patient it’s motivating and inspiring,” she says. “It’s amazing to watch.”

The volunteer experience has only strengthened Grimes’ and Vance’s desire to pursue their career goals.

If your unit would like to have volunteer help from teens, college students or adults, contact Childers at or 934-4270. You also can visit the Volunteer Services Web site at to learn more.