During the school year, Red Cross youth volunteers throughout the L.A. Region were integral in promoting and carrying out the Red Cross mission. They all made huge impact on their various communities. The four youth members whose stories are below reflect upon the work they have done, their favorite events and special Red Cross moments. (Edited by Jasmine Han, summer intern.)
Santa Clarita Executive Board
Janine Espino has been involved with the American Red Cross through her high school club since her sophomore year. Now that she’s graduated, she is parting ways from her high school club and youth corps, but she hopes to stay involved with the Red Cross.
“The American Red Cross club has offered many volunteer hours, but it wasn’t just about the hours. Instead, it was more about the simple joy of volunteering that I really enjoyed. In fact, all of those hours really flew by as time truly flies when you’re having fun. After my involvement as a volunteer, I joined the Santa Clarita Executive Board. Through this leadership opportunity, I have been able to push myself out of my comfort zone and do things I never thought was possible for me. Because I am in a position that requires me to communicate important information to the youth volunteers, this propelled me to practice my public speaking and conversational skills with people every time I facilitate meetings and trainings, promote events or just interacting with my members.
Without the Red Cross, I would have never gotten over my terrible stage fright and fear of public speaking. Nor would I have met as many amazing people as I did during volunteer events like blood drives, fundraisers, and other community-helping events. I attribute most of my leadership skills to my experiences with the Red Cross and with my improved confidence and passion for serving. I hope to apply these skills in all aspects of my life and share with others the impact of my Red Cross experience.
I love volunteering and hope to keep helping Red Cross throughout the rest of my life.”
West Los Angeles Youth Corps
Oliver Pizarro is going into the 10th grade. Red Cross played an integral role in his first year of high school.
“Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), held at the Mid Valley YMCA, is the one event that helped me grow the most.
The most interesting part of GYSD was the speakers who presented what they had done and were currently doing with their lives. The first speaker, a woman who had started from nothing to becoming the head of a Disney department, had traveled to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina. Her stories were incredible as she shared about how she built a park and helped in general with needed repairs. The information on Hurricane Katrina and the comparison of it to other hurricanes were mind-blowing, proving how inspiring some Red Cross volunteers are. The other speaker focused on the use of technology to increase awareness of upcoming disasters in order to show the revival of towns and places.
In addition to that, we presented what each Youth Corps had accomplished over the year and were split into groups that were designated with a certain task to help the local community. My group learned CPR and disaster preparedness and went to a local library to teach people basic CPR and how to prepare for disasters.
This year GYSD was definitely something I was proud to be a part of, and I cannot wait for next year’s event!”
President and Founder, Rose and Alex Pilibos High School Red Cross Club
Nancy founded a successful club this year and inspired many others to reach out to the community through the club.
“Ever since I was little, I have always had a passion for helping others in need. In fact, that is why when I first heard about the idea of volunteering at the Red Cross, I immediately became very excited and signed up as soon as I could. Being a volunteer and understanding the Red Cross’ mission and fundamental principles made me want to spread my knowledge and compassion to others. This passion to spread the Red Cross mission drove me to start a Red Cross Club at my very own high school, only three months after becoming an official volunteer in May!
The high school club now has 52 dedicated and hardworking volunteer members, who just like me, love to do as much as they can to help those in need. Our first fundraiser, a Red Cross club volleyball tournament, was a great success! It was a fun night filled with food, laughter, and competition. Over 70 people participated and we collected $310, all of which went to the International Relief Fund. My club and I hope to continue doing our best to contribute to the American Red Cross and its amazing international work. I am proud to not only be a volunteer, but I am also proud to help make a difference in people’s lives.”
IS/SAF Officer, Glendale Youth Executive Board
She shared with us about her meeting with a veteran at the Veterans Association at Global Youth Service Day.
“At Global Youth Service Day, we made care packages and thank you cards to give the veterans. We then went off to a veterans’ home to give them the care packages in person!
I instantly gravitated towards a female veteran sitting in a wheelchair, working diligently on a crossword puzzle. As soon as I approached her and gave her what I made, she smiled so sincerely that I couldn’t help but smile back. I sat down with her, commented on her crossword puzzle, and asked her how she was doing. Her eyes lit up as if she wasn’t genuinely asked that question often and replied softly, “crossword puzzles are my favorite. Oh, and I’m good. What about you, sweetie?” I could tell by the warmth in her smile and the pleasant nature of her voice that she was an incredible woman who I wanted to get to know. She told me how she served as a nurse in Japan and loved every minute of it. She told me how she has a son that moved out of California a few months ago. She told me how she was alone, but that she liked it that way. Her independence and strength intrigued me. She asked me questions about myself and I instantly felt a motherly vibe from her. I asked her why she was staying at the veteran home, and she replied, “I really need to work on myself. I’ve been alone for a while, with only my books, and I really need to just get to know myself.” I admired her honesty, and right then, she became a role model to me. We continued on and talked about different books, movies, actresses, and actors that we liked. She told me about her favorite book and then I explained mine. I’ve never seen someone listen so intently, she hung on to every word that came out of my mouth. We analyzed life together and the deeper meaning to things that seem surface level to many others.
But then it was time to go, and when I told her, it seemed like it was something she was used to. I told her I would be back to visit her and bring her a crossword puzzle, and she smiled that same smile that she did when I first met her. She gave me a hug that embodied all of her love and appreciation towards me. I had talked to this woman for only 30 minutes, yet I felt like I knew her for my whole life. We took a picture together so that I could always keep a memory of her, just in case I couldn’t see her again. My parting words were, “Thank you for your service.” All in all, this experience made me realize how much I can do to help people with just a simple smile. For that, I am grateful to be a part of Red Cross. Global Youth Service Day was a success, and I can’t wait to participate in it again next year!”