Miami Palmetto High school senior Jimmy Lester volunteers at Baptist Hospital. Lester works in the Oncology Unit and in Errand Services.
“I’ve been around a lot of people who have been diagnosed with cancer,” he says. “I’ve been interested in the hospital setting. So, I said, let’s give this a shot and see if it’s what I want to pursue when I’m older. It’s opened my eyes to see what the medical field is about. I like it but it’s very heartbreaking and sad.”
Whichever unit he reports to, he does basically the same thing, run errands.
“It’s pretty much whatever department I feel like going to, that is the one I go to, either errand services or oncology,” he says. “I’ve seen almost everything. It’s very sad.”
The year he’s spent at Baptist changed his mind about going to the medical field.
“I’m planning on going into marketing,” he says.
Lester used to volunteer for the now defunct Friends Forever. He began volunteering in seventh grade and stayed three years with the program. He started as a yellow shirt, which were the kids who’d watch the dogs and walk them around PetSmart. He quickly became a team leader.
“We went through the adoption process with people who were adopting,” he says.
That time that he spent as a volunteer came with a bonus – he adopted five dogs over the course of three years.
He loved meeting people and he believed he was making a difference.
“There were a lot of people who were sick and were trying to find a service dog or a comfort dog,” he says. “It gave me a good feeling to put those dogs in a home.”
At Palmetto, Lester is a member of the Health Information Project. He and other trained volunteers go into freshman classrooms and teach the ninth graders health related topics. When he started in the program last year, he realized how important the program can be.
“Kids walk around thinking they know everything,” he says.
He believes he’s making a difference. He didn’t realize how many kids did need help.
“I met a lot of kids through HIP and mentored them outside the classroom,” he says.
He gave them advice and was happy that he was able to help them. However, he took care not to overstep boundaries.
Some of the questions he’s asked and some of the problems the students face are issues that Lester did not have to contend with, so it’s helped him widen his world view.
His desire to help others led him to become involved with Panther-to-Panther, a program which matches a senior with an underclassman. The seniors mentor the underclassmen and help them adjust to the vagrancies of high school.
This is Lester’s second year as the business manager of the school yearbook. It’s unusual to have a junior in such a senior leadership position, but Lester has done the job well.
“I love it,” he says. “It’s a lot of fun. I get to market the book and come up with great ideas and get to incentivize the staff members to sell our book and promote our sales.”
Last year, they did so well, they actually oversold the yearbook.
Being the business manager has steered him toward taking marketing in college instead of medicine. His college list includes the University of Florida, the University of Central Florida and Florida International University.
He works privately after school for an elderly couple doing tasks around the house and taking care of their animals.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld