Planting the Seeds of Community Outreach

Students cleaning up local neighborhood
Pictured: Through Mayor Byron Brown's summer jobs program, Buffalo high school students are working with Roswell Park employees on a number of projects, including cleaning up the Fruit Belt neighborhood, assisting with drive-up COVID-19 testing and getting hands-on experience in the managerial side of healthcare.

Buffalo is lovingly known as the City of Good Neighbors, a sentiment Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center takes to heart.

This summer, just under 100 high school students are working with Roswell Park. Some are teaming up with Facilities staff to be good neighbors in the Fruit Belt neighborhood by helping clean up the environment. Others are working with teams in Radiation Safety, Radiology, IT and HR.

Through Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s summer jobs program, high school students work on campus, in the neighboring community or in outreach centers that partner with Roswell Park, such as the Belle Center, Mt. Aaron Baptist Church and True Bethel Church.

“We have some kids helping to distribute hand sanitizer made at Roswell Park to local churches and community centers. Others are helping with food distribution efforts. The program is helping us in ways we didn’t think it would. We definitely see the benefit of having these kids working with us for the summer,” says Carl Thomas, Chief Organizational and Community Liaison for Roswell Park.

The clean-up work being done in partnership with the Fruit Belt Coalition is especially important to Roswell Park, as the hospital is located at the edge of the Fruit Belt neighborhood.

“We made sure to connect with the Coalition before the kids went in,” Thomas says. “They have a park we’re going to spruce up. They have a gazebo we’ll be working on as well. The kids are going to go through the Fruit Belt, picking up debris, and if anyone has a TV or tires they’re throwing away, we’ll make sure those are removed and disposed of properly.”

Thomas served as the head of Public Safety at Roswell Park for 40 years and knows firsthand the close relationship the hospital has with the neighborhood. It’s one that relies on trust between employees and residents.

Working with city students helps further instill a sense of responsibility and good will between Roswell Park and the community.

It’s an appreciation the students share, both with Roswell Park and with the neighbors they are meeting.

“It’s been great seeing the neighbors come outside or roll down their windows while driving by to talk with us about what we’re doing,” says Anna Scinta, a rising junior at City Honors School. “It’s a good feeling to take away the litter and garbage so they don’t have to worry about it at all. We’re very happy to help out.”

Dwayne Jones, a rising sophomore at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and a second-year worker at Roswell Park, has enjoyed his experiences.

“Experiencing Roswell Park’s tight-knit family is what compelled me to come back for a second year,” he says. “Getting a thank you from a neighbor can really change your day.”

By inviting students to work at Roswell Park, the center also extends an invitation to them to learn more about all its care options, further showing the community that this is a place for everyone.

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One group of four students are learning more about jobs in the healthcare industry by working in Clinical Operations, according to JuYi Banchich, Clinical Department Administrator. The students are helping with drive-up COVID-19 testing. Three of them direct traffic for the testing, which is available for patients and employees from 7-11 a.m. during the week, while the fourth student shadows an administrator, attending meetings and learning more about the business side of the department.

“Three of the three students are going into healthcare-related fields in college. It’s good for them to see a different side of hospital operations that will give them a taste of the real world and might help guide their future,” Banchich says.

This is the first year Clinical Operations has participated in the summer jobs program, but it likely won’t be the last. “We’re very impressed,” Banchich adds. “These students are very bright, very hardworking. We have been impressed with their professionalism.”

Summer isn’t the only time students can get involved at Roswell Park. The Yroswell Street Team program offers plenty of volunteer opportunities year-round; click here for more information.