By Contributing Writer - June 11, 2019
When 17-year-old twins Camila and Cristina Pow-Sang reported for their first day of volunteering at Moffitt Cancer Center they carried on a family tradition that spans nearly two decades. The Pow-Sangs are following in the footsteps of their brothers and cousins who have participated in Moffitt’s VolunTeen program for years.
The VolunTeen program is an opportunity for students, ages 15 to 17 who have completed their first year of high school, to spend a summer volunteering in a variety of clinical and non-clinical departments at Moffitt.
Both Pow-Sangs have their sights set on a career in medicine just like their uncle, Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, a physician in the Genitourinary Department. He says, "I am beyond words. I’ve watched this program grow over the past 20 years and I believe it will give my nieces an idea of what to expect in their future careers."
All VolunTeens must volunteer at least one day a week for nine weeks, which teaches many students a valuable lesson in time management. The Pow-Sang sisters live in Miami and decided to take an online class this summer so they could be in Tampa and commit to the program.
Like the Pow-Sangs, 17-year-old Reef Ide has a busy summer schedule. On the days he isn’t volunteering at Moffitt, he will be participating in the Civil Air Patrol. His mother is currently battling breast cancer and he says he will never forget the way Moffitt team members treated his whole family when they were on campus. The part that sticks out the most was being offered a blanket during long stays at the cancer center. "I want to be that warm blanket for everyone else. I want to be a part of that community," he says.
Ide has dreamed of going to Harvard since he was in the fourth grade and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. As he walked from booth to booth during the volunteer fair he sought out departments that have a clinical focus, but a variety of departments participate.
A number of non-clinical departments such as IT, Diversity and Design and Construction host a summer VolunTeen, which exposes students to a variety of careers at the cancer center. After visiting the department booths, the teens rank their preferred departments from one to six.
On the day the students volunteer, they will spend the morning in one department and the afternoon in another allowing them to broaden their horizons.
Lacey Bodenstein isn’t sure if she wants to pursue a career in medicine and is excited to see the different areas. Her father was treated for testicular cancer at Moffitt and her grandmother, Estelle "Cookie" Bodenstein, has volunteered at the cancer center for the past 19 years and was named Volunteer of the Year in 2018.
VolunTeens fill a crucial gap in the summer months when adult, full-time volunteers take time off to travel and relax. Learn more about volunteering at Moffitt.