HUDSON — For some kids, high school is four years of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up — or at least what direction you'll be heading in.
Amir Hussain, 15, already has his path carved out.
"My dream is to become a neurosurgeon," he said, adding that his interest was first piqued when his mother underwent a successful neurosurgical procedure.
"The brain is a complex and delicate organ," he said. "And I'd like to be a part of that."
To meet that end, the River Ridge High sophomore spent much of his summer getting his feet wet. Three days a week Amir donned blue scrubs for a volunteer stint in the operating room supply area at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.
"I thought this would be a good way to get some medical field experience in this environment," Amir said, while gathering supplies for the next day's procedures.
It is, according to O.R. Materials Manager Kristie Shirkey. Along with her regular duties, she oversaw six teen volunteers over the summer months.
"We're very busy. There's a lot of action — never a dull moment," she said, adding that there are 1,700 items that volunteers need to acquaint themselves with. "They get to see what kind of pressure goes on around here. It gives them the beginning pieces of what it takes to go into a specialty. It's a good education."
The volunteer gig is a win-win for teens and the hospital, said Donna Owen, who manages over 500 teen and adult volunteers at the medical center.
"It gives teens the ability to observe and see what goes on in a health care setting, to see how things operate in a hospital," she said.
In turn the work ethic and dedication of volunteers benefits the hospital.
"They are instrumental to the success of the hospital," Owen said. "They help in every area, every department."
Students must first go through an interview process to determine the best fit. That is followed by orientation and on-the-job training.
"We talk about their needs — what they might be interested in doing in the future," Owen said.
Fivay High freshman Clarice Todd, 14, was thinking ahead when she decided to sign on as a Candy Striper. She's already clocked 164 hours greeting people, running errands, escorting visitors and delivering flowers to patients' rooms.
"I wanted to get my volunteer hours in and I wanted to help people," she said, adding that one day she would like to be a registered nurse.
Danielle Heidkamp, 15, gave over 150 hours volunteering in the hospital cafeteria.
"I saw it as a way to get some experience," said Danielle, who is currently enrolled in the culinary arts program at Fivay High. "It was great. I met some really nice people and I got to see food production, which was really cool."
Some volunteers will drop off with the start of school. Out of the 110 teens who volunteered over the summer, 60 will remain.
"School is the first priority," Owen said.
Even so, she expects to see the number climb again next summer.
Most teens end up logging well beyond the 75 to 100 volunteer hours required for Florida's Bright Futures Scholarship Program, Owen said. She recently doled out Star Awards to six teen volunteers, some who logged more than 1,000 hours during their tenure.
"They don't have to stay and they do and that's the beauty of it," Owen said. "I see them giving so much of themselves. I see the beauty of what they give every day."
Michele Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6251. Follow her @mimichele525