By Kinsey Egan-McGee, Youth Coordinator, AmeriCorps, Red Cross Los Angeles Region
“The American Red Cross is a well-known brand name that looks great on resumes, gives its volunteers the opportunity to gain experience doing direct service with the community, and provides a chance to gain leadership experience!” That is the standard pitch for the Youth and Young Adult Services team when recruiting youth volunteers (typically high school students) to join as a Red Cross volunteer.
As an AmeriCorps member working with youth under 18, I am able to see first-hand how my youth volunteers grow in the Youth Services Program. They are given the opportunity to assume leadership roles among their peers, taught valuable skills when working with vulnerable communities, such as children, veterans, and seniors, and are able to explore future career goals and network with other students. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the youth volunteers because I can see their growth, both personally and professionally, and feel as though I am somewhat responsible.
Youth volunteers engage in many aspects of the Red Cross. Currently, the Los Angeles Region leads the nation in Youth Services with over 100 Red Cross Clubs! The members of these clubs strive to plan one blood drive, one disaster preparedness event for the community, and one fundraiser per school year. They commit much of their time supporting regional causes, such as the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign, Measles and Rubella Initiative fundraising, the LA Marathon, the Rose Parade, and much more.
One of the most popular events that youth volunteers do is present Puppet Shows. These are official Sesame Street puppets and music, with corresponding dance routines. Youth volunteers are the main source of puppeteers in our Region and regularly assist in preparing younger children (typically Kindergarten through 2nd grade) in the community with emergency and fire safety tips. This is a fun, easy way to teach young kids about disaster preparedness and allow the youth volunteers to have a hand in preparing the community. If puppets could talk, we could only imagine the amazing things that they would say about our youth volunteers!