Volunteering helps teen prepare for healthcare career

Rising senior at Boca Ciega High School, Ayanni ‘Yanni’ Davis, chose Suncoast Hospice to complete her required 100 volunteer hours of medical service. Front, Ayanni, Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer with Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer Coordinator Katie Peak, CCLS

By Karen Davis-Pritchett M.Ed., Empath Health Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

ST. PETERSBURG — “So, I love babies, right?”

Suncoast Hospice teen volunteer Ayanni “Yanni” Davis takes a direct route to explain why she wants to be an obstetrician or gynecologist.

The rising senior is enrolled in the Boca Ciega High School medical program and chose Suncoast Hospice, a member of Empath Health, to complete her required 100 volunteer hours of medical service.

Along the way, Davis is finding she might just have an affinity for crafting, too. Since becoming a teen volunteer in March, Davis has created Easter wreaths, yarn vases for flower donations, and birthday cards, all to brighten the lives of Suncoast Hospice patients. On June 3, she and a friend joined other teen volunteers to design summer-themed chalk art for the residents of Wentworth Central Avenue assisted-living facility.

“I don’t think I’m really good at it,” Davis said of her craft projects. “If it looks good, I guess that’s what matters. And the time and care you put into it.”

Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer Coordinator Katie Peak, CCLS, said Davis is too modest.

“I think she does really wonderful work. She has brought in some great projects for patients,” Peak said.

High school students, ages 14–18, who live in or attend school in Pinellas County are eligible to become a Suncoast Hospice teen volunteer and make a difference in the lives of people of all ages and walks of life. They can help record patients’ life stories, celebrate a special occasion or provide companionship. Teen volunteers can also help at a resale shop, share organizational or computer skills in one of the administrative offices, bake cookies or make crafts.

“We get a lot of opportunities,” Davis noted. “When Katie sends out volunteer opportunities, she doesn’t do just one. She does multiple so that we can choose one or two at a time. Some of them are first-come, first-served, so if there is a limited amount, you have to make sure you check your email.”

Suncoast Hospice has almost 250 teen volunteers. Teens interested in joining the effort interview with volunteer staff, complete an application and undergo orientation training. Additional training is available for teens who would like to interact directly with patients; something Davis hopes to do soon.

Peak said teens are an essential part of the Empath Health volunteer department.

“I love the intergenerational interaction,” she said. “I think both sides gain so much from the time spent together. For our patients and our families, it’s really encouraging and brings joy and hope to see young people involved in their community and giving back. I think for the teens, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn from individuals in our community. Teens just bring a different energy to the room. It’s welcome and very valued.”

Davis was familiar with Suncoast Hospice because her sister, Ariyah, previously served as a teen volunteer. Davis loves meeting new people through the program and has already recruited a friend to become a teen volunteer, too.

“I’m very glad I took the opportunity to sign up for hospice when I did,” Davis stated. “I really enjoy the program and working with people in the community. It’s inspiring. Hospice has helped me come out of my shell and be more outgoing. I’m not a very social person, so whenever I get to work with other teens, I feel like it helps me. We get to know each other.”

Learn more about teen volunteer opportunities at Suncoast Hospice by visiting EmpathHealth.org/teen-volunteers or contacting the teen volunteer coordinator in your area: North County, Kathi Wendt, (727) 771-4433; Mid-County, Jill-Anne Fowler, (727) 523-3431; South County, Katie Peak, (727) 564-5920.

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