By Samantha Yin, AmeriCorps member
Friends and family members often ask me why I decided to come back to the American Red Cross as an AmeriCorps member for my gap year before applying to medical school. To me, the answer is simple. My initial experience with the American Red Cross in high school is the reason why I decided to pursue medicine. In fact, it has been the organization that has guided me ever since I was a youth volunteer, high school club officer, and first aid responder.
This year as an AmeriCorps member, my “mission moment” with the American Red Cross has been recreating the Youth First Aid Stations-in-Training (YFAST) program. In one month alone, we were able to certify over 120 high school students in First Aid, CPR, AED, Blood borne Pathogens and Emergency Oxygen Administration, which gave them the opportunity to put on medical gloves and treat patients in community first aid stations.
The project planning began in September, where I had the privilege of visiting a large number of high schools to provide an overview of the program and my own experiences as a Red Cross youth, in hopes of recruiting students interested in furthering their experience with volunteering with the Red Cross. Then, we hosted three weekend-long classes in November (with many students on the waiting list!) and successfully passed all students who took the class in three different locations in the LA Region: Van Nuys, Long Beach, and Pasadena/Arcadia. We had students coming as far north as Santa Clarita to as far east as Pomona, and they were all challenged through a two-day intensive training that covered multiple skill tests as well as two written exams.
The goal for me was having over half of those certified youth work as first aid responders during the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade where over hundreds of thousands of attendees and participants come together every year. These youth that volunteered their holiday morning, arriving to the event as early as 4:30am, used their medical knowledge obtained from YFAST and truly put their skills to the test– working alongside EMTs, EMRs, nurses, and even doctors.
For many of the youth, this was the first time they had hands-on medical exposure, in addition to the first time anyone took [them]”seriously” while still being a minor under 18. For me, that was the statement that initiated the “mission moment”. It simply was a chance for people to see the potential of our Red Cross youth and how much they can contribute as long as they felt empowered to do so. Not only did it bring me back to the day when I was 16 years old and wearing the first aid responder uniform for the first time, it also reminded me of the proud feeling I had to simply say that I was a Red Cross volunteer, helping out my local community in times of need.
There are many reasons why I’m grateful to be an AmeriCorps member this past year. However, diving back to my roots and being reminded how honored I am to call myself a continuing “Red Cross Volunteer” is the best feeling thus far.