Summer is a great time for high school students to participate in volunteer work to explore their interests, give back to their communities, and, of course, have something to put on their college resumes. The local Red Cross is one organization that counts on a large number of youth volunteers.
Pilar Furlong, vice president of public support for the Silicon Valley chapter of the American Red Cross, calls teen volunteers "instrumental" in helping to run local Red Cross programs.
"The only way we can train as many people as we do is to have volunteer instructors," says Furlong. "In the summer, we usually see a large increase in youth volunteers. They are some of the most amazing and dedicated volunteers we have."
The Red Cross has over 1,000 youth volunteers in Santa Clara County. A number of these teens become Red Cross instructors and teach classes in first aid, CPR, and community disaster education for elementary school children. Even better, many of these youths become passionate enough about Red Cross activities to set up fund-raisers at their schools and join or found a school-based Red Cross Club, 25 of which already exist in Santa Clara County. Mountain View High School's Red Cross Club is very active and last year ran one of the most successful fundraisers in the history of the school, collecting nearly $4,000 in two weeks for disaster relief in Haiti.
The fundraiser was spearheaded by junior Ambika Bist. She's the president of the Red Cross Club at MVHS, a student member of the local Red Cross board, and a dedicated Red Cross volunteer since she was in seventh grade. Ambika's passion is disaster preparedness for youth. When she heard about the Haiti disaster, she immediately launched into action to raise both funds and awareness.
"The night the Haiti disaster happened, I put the donation boxes together. The day after, the fund-raiser was approved by the school, and the day after that, we had boxes in all the classrooms," she explains.
Students in history classes discussed the ramifications of the disaster while passing around the donation boxes, she said.
In addition to the money collected in classrooms, a significant amount of the donations came from the Mountain View-versus-Los Altos high schools boy's basketball game. Ambika and other Red Cross members created a large donation box for each school and challenged the rivals to compete to raise the most money.
Who won? "Los Altos won the game, but we beat them in donations," reports Ambika proudly.
Ambika advises other student volunteers to find something that they are truly interested in and warns that they may need to try things out before knowing what their passion is.
"One of my biggest motivations for being so involved is that I've found something that I'm passionate about," Ambika says. "It started out as just another thing to do to put on a college application or get service hours for, but now I've become a better leader and have gotten to meet different kinds of people from different schools. I hope other students can find their passion, too."
Potential Red Cross volunteers of all ages can learn more by contacting Crystal Paul at (408) 577-2014 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for a one-day First Aid/CPR class (open to adults and youth) call (877) 727-6771 or go to www.siliconvalley-redcross.org. Upcoming classes include those in Palo Alto on June 10, 18 and 25 and in San Jose on June 15, 19, 26 and 30.
Mountain View resident Jennifer Pence is founder of the Windmill Giving Circle and founder and owner of Academic Springboard, a tutoring group. E-mail Jennifer at email@example.com.