If they had to write essays about what they did on summer vacation, Kelly Bourque of the Town of Niagara and Taraneh Jacobs of Wheatfield would have plenty of tales to tell.
This summer, as they have in previous years, they volunteered their time as junior volunteers at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center. They both won 2010 Junior Volunteer Scholarships, but more importantly, both found direction for future careers.
The scholarships are funded by the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center Foundation and Auxiliary and awarded annually to graduating high school seniors who have volunteered at least two years and 100 hours at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center or its Schoellkopf Health Center.
Jacobs, a 2010 graduate of Niagara Catholic High School, now is in the physician assistant program at Daemen College. She was a junior volunteer at Memorial for five years.
Bourque, a 2010 graduate of Niagara-Wheatfield High School, now is a childhood education major at the State University of New York at Fredonia. She was a junior volunteer for four years.
The two were among 71 local male and female students who tested their interest in the health care field and performed community service at the hospital from July 7 to Aug. 20. Participants in the Junior Volunteer Program can choose which department they'd like to work in, and some choose two or three different departments, said Judy Villani, Memorial's director of volunteer services.
Jacobs started in the nursing home and child care areas, then tried the surgery department and found her niche. Earning her degree in the physician assistant program is the first step, but she'd like to specialize in surgery.
"I never would have known unless I volunteered," she said. "It was fantastic. I was actually able to observe some of the surgery."
One of the surgeries she watched was a caesarian section.
"Here was this little kid coming into the world because they were helping someone out. It was incredible!" she said.
She also was enthusiastic about working with the staff -- "It feels like a family there."
Bourque's mom is a nurse and told her about the daycare at Memorial -- "She knew I loved babies."
Bourque stayed with the department for all four summers she volunteered, starting with the toddlers and ending with the pre-school. She hopes to return next summer.
The interaction with the young children helped her decide "pretty easily" what direction to choose for a career, she said. "I got to do a lot with them. It was definitely fun."
One of her favorite activities was reading to the kids. "They would bring you book after book after book until you just couldn't take it anymore," she said with a chuckle.
The Junior Volunteer Program at Memorial isn't new, just changed a bit over the years.
The Red Cross established the first junior volunteer program at Memorial in 1961, according to Villani. The teenage participants were required to complete a four-month formal classroom-type training program on hospital subjects before they could begin their service. The program proved to be so popular that the original 30-student limit was doubled to accommodate all applicants.
In 1963, the Medical Center Auxiliary organized a second group -the Junior Auxiliary. Initially, many were daughters of Auxiliary members. They volunteered primarily in the hospital's gift/snack shop.
"The program grew by leaps and bounds," Villani said. "Within five years, there were 300 youths ages 15 to 18 in the three-month summer program, working in assignments throughout the hospital. They were known as ‘candy stripers' for their distinctive red and white striped pinafores."
Today, there is a single Junior Volunteer Program. The scholarship program was established by the Medical Center Auxiliary and Foundation in 1999 to recognize outstanding service. Since then, 21 scholarships have been awarded, many to students planning on pursuing medical careers.
There is one big style difference since the program began.
"The juniors long ago traded in the candy stripes for a more modern look -- blue Medical Center T-shirts and khaki pants," Villani said.