For American Red Cross’ youth, involvement has always been a significant part of the organization and its future growth. With many Red Cross volunteers being retirees, the Red Cross is always looking for younger volunteers to join the organization.
The Red Cross currently has 16 active Red Cross Clubs in Illinois. The Red Cross Clubs are established in numerous high schools and colleges around the country. Along with these clubs, the Red Cross provides volunteering opportunities for young adults who want to gain experience in a nonprofit setting and develop better service skills.
One of the members contributing to the Red Cross youth programs is Rodrigo Estrada. He first began volunteering for the Red Cross as a youth volunteer in 2015 and is currently a college student at the University of Chicago.
Rodrigo currently serves as the Resources Lead for the National Youth Council which allows him to oversee all of the resources that the council prepares for Red Cross Clubs to regions across the country. Through these experiences, he has been given more responsibility in the organization and has gained more service skills.
“I really owe it to my Red Cross Clubs experiences and the leadership skills that it instilled in me for preparing me to take on the role of Resources Lead for the National Youth Council to continue to advocate for youth volunteers across the country,” Rodrigo says.
Not only did this experience prepare him for new roles in the organizations, but Rodrigo believes that this involvement at the Red Cross is something that has contributed to his success outside of the organization.
“I was recently accepted for the Truman scholarship and I really owe that opportunity and recognition to the Red Cross. The Truman scholarship is the nation’s premier public service fellowship and through the Red Cross I have been able to continue to cultivate my passion for service and my commitment to serving my community,” Rodrigo adds.
At the Red Cross, there are also volunteers like Steve Swett who has been serving the Red Cross for 36 years. Steve is currently an advisor for the Red Cross Club at the Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby and works closely with young adult volunteers, by organizing blood drives and food drives and much more. Steve believes the impact of the youth is something that can affect everyone in the community.
“An organization is only as good as its youth . . . When they can come and help out at a blood drive or go and help out at the veteran’s home, that gets their feet wet and makes them want to go on and do something else, so I believe it is a positive domino effect,” says Swett.
Rodrigo and Steve are looking forward to the future of the Red Cross and are hopeful. When considering ways to attract more youth involvement in the organization Rodrigo suggested more virtual based interactions that are appealing to younger volunteers.
“I think it is important that we bring youth into the organization who have a greater competency or also proficiency in virtual engagement in social media,” Rodrigo says. “Through the National Youth Council, we launched a volunteer from home guide where youth who may have not been a part of the organization can find opportunities to serve the Red Cross and to serve the community at home through virtual engagement. We’ve also launched the Red Cross Clubs in a virtual setting guide which shows how Red Cross Clubs can continue to meet and can continue to plan projects virtually.”
If you want to become more involved in your community and gain leadership skills, please consider starting a Red Cross Club at your high school or college. If you wish to volunteer at the Red Cross, please visit the Red Cross volunteer page for more information.
Written by David Astudillo, Marketing and Communications Intern and Youth Volunteer.