Toni McKinney, right, recognizes Sarah Barton of Houston for volunteering more than 90 hours as a TCMH youth ambassador during a special presentation. (File photo)

Texas County Memorial Hospital has opened the application process for area youth to join the 2011-’12 Youth Ambassador program.

Members are area high school juniors and seniors and area college students who volunteer their time at TCMH. They have volunteered more than 1,700 hours at the hospital since the program began in December 2009.

“The Youth Ambassador program has been an excellent way for some of our area young people to get a taste for working in a healthcare environment and to provide a valuable service to the hospital,” said Toni McKinney, registration director at TCMH and the liaison with the TCMH Auxiliary.

McKinney created the Youth Ambassador program as an extension of the hospital’s traditional auxiliary program.

Members are chosen from a formal application process. They are required to go through an orientation and must commit to volunteering at TCMH for four hours each month. The program includes three levels of volunteer achievement – Healthcare Survivor, TCMH Idol and Amazing Ambassador – and the levels can be achieved based on volunteer hours and work ethic.

Since its inception, several Youth Ambassadors have reached the various levels of achievement in the volunteer program.

Five former Youth Ambassadors now have jobs working in the hospital’s obstetrics, emergency and registration departments. Two received $1,000 scholarships from TCMH this year.

Volunteer duties include passing out fresh linens and filling ice water cups for patients on the medical surgical floors, rocking newborns and greeting visitors in the obstetrics department and reading to and talking with patients in the hospital’s swing bed program.

“Over 60 students have been a part of the Youth Ambassador program, and it continues to grow each year,” McKinney said.

McKinney explained that the program has achieved its goal of providing area students with hands-on experience and a much greater knowledge and appreciation for what goes on behind the doors of their community hospital.

“There’s a lot more going on in hospitals than just people working as doctors and nurses,” McKinney said. “Some of our current Youth Ambassadors will be able to continue to volunteer at the hospital in the upcoming year. We hope to add to our ranks by opening up the program to new applicants and open up the world of the hospital to more students in our area.”

Additional information about the TCMH Youth Ambassadors and the application for the program is available from McKinney or area guidance counselors. The deadline is Sept. 14.

McKinney can also be reached by calling 417-967-1346 or via email at

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