Teens Dedicate Their Summer to Help Veterans

Sixty teens helping at local VA to help veterans

Columbia, SC (WTLX) - Some teens are spending their summer volunteering at the Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia to spend time and help veterans.

These kids take part in the Summer Youth Volunteer program by working in different departments like medical and administrative areas.

Any teen from the age of 13 to 17 can join the program and be a part of it year after year. Some students are lucky enough to receive scholarships when they wrap up their volunteering and prepare to go to college.

Nathaniel Riley is a rising sophomore at West Wood High School and has been a part of the program for three years.

"I do enjoy being with the veterans and speaking to them every morning and how polite they are and how much they appreciate us coming to help them," said Riley.

Riley is just one of fifty nine other students that volunteer at the medical center. These students don't get paid but they love to be here.

"Their parents are telling them they have to come into the program and then the next you know, you hear the parents saying, 'It was my day off but they told me I had to get up and take them to work because they actually enjoy being part of the team,'" said Tammy Finney, who runs the program.

Not only do they learn a lot from the veterans, they also gain a new friend during the 8-week program.

"They develop a special bond to where some of the students have actually adopted some of them and call them grandpa," said Finney. "They get the opportunity to come back during the holidays or on their breaks from school just to come and say hi and spend some time with them."

Benjamin Gardner is another teen who volunteers at the hospital and says he learns a great deal from these living history books.

"It's interesting, some people I have talked to have talked about the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luter King Jr. and how they were treated," said Gardner. "It's important to them because a lot of them, believe it or not, don't talk to very many young people and they like telling people their stories and sharing with me what it was like back in the good old days."

Riley wants people to know that teens today do think the world of these veterans.

"For the youth now a days, it's kind of hard to break the stereotype that the youth just doesn't care anymore but I want to be a part of the youth that does show that we do care in any way that I can," said Riley.

After the eight-week program ends, the Dorn VA Medical Center holds a graduation ceremony for the teens in August.

© 2017 WLTX-TV


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