NORTH ADAMS -- On a typical summer day, Travis Ciempa, 15, can be found at North Adams Regional Hospital delivering medical records, transporting specimens or helping to discharge patients.
He's one of 15 local teenagers, ranging in age from 13 to 17, participating in the hospital's six-week junior volunteer program.
"This is my second year volunteering," Ciempa, of Adams, said Tuesday. "I met so many wonderful people and had such a great time last year that I decided to do it again."
He added, "You can have a real impact on a person's day just by saying ‘good morning' or ‘good night.' Most people who are here are having a tough time; they don't want to be at the hospital. Just by greeting them or helping them out, you can put a smile on their face. It also makes you feel good about yourself."
The program places junior volunteers in various departments, ranging from the short-stay unit to the copy center and reception.
"The junior volunteers are a key thing for us during the summer," Bonnie Clark, manager of physician and community relations, said. "During the summer, a lot of our regular volunteers go on vacation. It's not only an opportunity for the kids, but a huge help to us."
She said the program, once known as ‘candy stripers' because of the red and white striped uniforms the volunteers wore, has adopted a more grown-up look in recent years, now favoring a maroon vest or smock.
DJ Ross, 17, of Williamstown, said she volunteered this summer as a way to figure out her career path as she enters Mount Holyoke College in the fall.
"I think I want to go into the medical field," she said. "It's a good opportunity for me to experience the workings of a hospital. I think there are certain expectations you have going into any situation and this is one way to experience it for real. It's good life experience, whether or not I go into the medical field."
Ross, who is assigned to the short-stay unit, said she helps get patients settled in prior to their procedures.
"It's day surgery," she said. "I get the patients settled in and I also help the family members, bringing them in and out of the patient's room and connecting them with the nurses."
Andrew Corsi, 15, of North Adams, and Blaize Pandell, 13, of Adams, have been busy volunteering in the copy center.
"The copy center makes all the copies for the different departments," Wayne Powell, volunteer coordinator, said. "We put together the admission packets and all the printouts, packets and binders needed for each specialty."
Being tucked away and out of sight for part of their day doesn't bother either Corsi or Pandell, who also volunteer in transport services.
"It's a really good experience and it's better than being home doing nothing for the summer," Pandell said.
Corsi added, "It's a really good educational experience. It's something I'd recommend."
For more information on the volunteer program, contact Clark at 413-664-5141.