Dunwoody High junior Niyi Gleason says that while growing up in an orphanage most of her life she felt “uncared for, unloved and unsecure.” So, when she took her first job this summer, Niyi decided it wouldn’t be bagging groceries or working in the mall. Rather, it would be a volunteer stint at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“I know that many people in the hospital may feel worried, scared and uncertain, as I have in the past,” Niyi said. “So, I want to help them through their illness with a friendly smile and just chatting with them, or whatever other volunteer duties are required of me. It is my goal to be a nurse because I love taking care of people and helping them with their needs.”
Adopted by a Dunwoody family several years ago, Niyi says when she arrived in the United States from Colombia, she spoke no English and was very shy.
“My mother encouraged me to apply for the VolunTeen position because she knew I was interested in nursing, and she wanted me to overcome my shyness by working with other people in a job she knew I would enjoy,” Niyi said. “She also thought it would help me to learn a level of responsibility necessary in jobs when other people are depending on you.”
The hospital’s VolunTeen program was started in 1980 by the Saint Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary volunteers to give teens a chance to learn the ins and outs of healthcare by interacting with patients, nurses and doctors.
“For many of these students, it was their first work experience, and they learned valuable life lessons and job skills,” said Allison Hager, director of Guest and Volunteer Services at Emory Saint Joseph’s. “Some of their duties included updating information on the white boards located in patient rooms, transporting patients, and assisting with the delivery of supplies all around the hospital.”
Niyi was one of 62 students taking part in the program this year, and said the experience not only allowed her to help people, but it also confirmed that she wants to be a nurse.
“I learned that I really do love the medical profession,” she said. “Everyone needs to be loved and cared for no matter how old you are or how sick you are. I loved transporting patients and getting a chance to find out something about each individual person as we talked.”