August 12 is International Youth Day with a focus on education. A big shout-out to our Empath Health teen volunteers who learn, grow and make a difference serving our community.

This year marks 25 years of our Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer Program. It is a pioneer program in the U.S. training and incorporating high school teens in hospice care. More than 365 teen volunteers now support Suncoast Hospice as well as other parts of the Empath Health network.

Meet Yash: Suncoast Hospice Teen Volunteer

Yash Kothari is headed into his senior year in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Largo High School. His main love is STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). He also plays on a tennis team, serves as president of the Science Olympiad team, serves as secretary of the Rho Kappa history society and is involved with the National Honor Society and the Science Honor Society.

“I am trying to make an impact in school,” Kothari expressed.

A presentation on Suncoast Hospice inspired him to join as a volunteer. He now has served more than a year.

He explained, “In the beginning, I didn’t even know what hospice was. Jill (his teen volunteer coordinator) came to our school and talked about it. I thought it was interesting and outside of my comfort zone. I thought it would be a cool experience to try something new.”

Patient Support and Team Leadership

Leading a Cheer Team and visiting patients in nursing facilities is Kothari’s primary role.

“At least once a week I do Cheer Team visits. I did the training with a group of kids I didn’t really know. Some of those people became some of my best friends,” he shared.

He added, “On one of my Cheer Team visits I met a veteran who was in the Army and a scientist. He talked about how he loved physics and chemistry and used them. That is something that I probably wouldn’t be able to learn conventionally in other ways of volunteering.”

Party Pals celebrations for patients are another one of his activities.

“It’s pretty fun. Instead of meeting somebody every week, you can meet somebody for a little longer and celebrate that person’s birthday. We are able to make someone smile, even if that person’s family isn’t there. I remember one of the first Party Pals celebrations we did, and the patient sent me and my team a letter thanking us and saying how much it helped her,” he said.

Honoring Veterans

Recently Kothari branched out to assist with recording video interviews with local war-era veterans as part of Empath Health’s work with the national Veterans History Project.

“That was interesting. Being able to talk to veterans wasn’t something that I have ever done. Going in with no expectations, hearing those stories, knowing the transcripts will go into the Library of Congress and being a part of that was cool,” he noted.

Rewarding Service

All of these volunteer experiences have helped Kothari develop in life and see hospice care in a positive light.

“Volunteering at Suncoast Hospice has helped with my leadership. It has helped me to grow my communications skills and not be as shy to talk with people. I am able to go help patients and listen to their stories. I feel that I am able to help someone be happy in a harder time. It really inspires me,” he said.

He added, “Suncoast Hospice is reinforcing, uplifting and helpful. It turns something that people think is a bad thing into an uplifting thing. I am going to continue to volunteer at hospice as long as I am here in the area. I plan on doing other things in volunteering and seeing where that takes me.”

Calling More Teens!

Click here to learn more about the many volunteer opportunities available at Empath Health.