Friday, July 18, 2014

Voices from the Greater NY Red Cross Youth Leadership Summit

The week of July 14 to 18, the Greater New York Region held a Red Cross Youth Leadership Summit for members of its Red Cross High School and College Clubs. A total of 28 students from schools around the region took part. They heard presentations on a wide range of topics, including public speaking, mission-related activities, conflict resolution, managing volunteers, psychological first aid, how to manage a budget, the International Humanitarian Law and more.

Here’s what a few of the participants had to say about the week and their Red Cross involvement.

Danial Khoshkehpazl and Shania Mahmud
Danial Khoshkehpazl – Deer Park High School, Deer Park, Long Island
Q. What prompted you to join your Red Cross Club?
A. I grew up in Macedonia and now I live on Long Island. I joined the Club to find friends, acceptance and people who understand me. I’m the club president.
Q. What are your thoughts about the summit?
A.  I’m here to obtain new skills and ideas which I can use throughout the year and develop new activities and maybe make our club friendlier. It can help people to get to know each other. Some kids are like “My friend doesn’t like her, so I’m not going to like her too,” which is not a good reason. The summit is the most exciting thing I’m learning the whole summer.

Shania Mahmud – Deer Park High School, Deer Park, Long Island
Q. What is your involvement with your Red Cross Club?
A. I joined the club to meet new people and have fun. It’s the only club I want to go to. We meet after school on Friday and I look forward to it every day of the week. I like doing humane service work and being there to help people. I also enjoy organizing and being in charge.
Q. What did you learn during the summit?
A. I gained some leadership skills that can be useful, since I’m the Club secretary.

Irena Hsu
Irena Hsu — Horace Mann School, Bronx, New York
Q. What can you tell us about your Red Cross Club?
A. The school’s Red Cross Club was started a short time ago, in February 2014; I’m the president, starting my junior year in September. We hope to grow the club from 10 members to at least 20. 
Q. What do you like about the summit?
A. It’s fun. The courses are divided into leadership building and club management. I’m jumping between the two so that next year I’ll be more prepared to take the club where it needs to be. The presentation on speaking skills was really useful. Often you get questions about how the club works and what the club is about. It’s really important for us to convey in a very short time everything the person needs to know. This course taught me some tips and tricks on how to calm myself down and be able to talk to people more efficiently. 

Saif Billah
Saif Billah – Bronx High School of Science, Bronx, New York
Q. You’ve been a volunteer since you were a child, yes? 
A. When I was young, I would volunteer at my local mosque and at a soup kitchen. Volunteering is something I really liked. My parents encouraged me at first, but now I do it on my own and I love that we’re helping people in need. I enjoy that, and I love the Red Cross. I joined the school’s Red Cross club as a sophomore; I became more involved as a junior. I ran for and won the event coordinator position. In the coming year, I’ll be the club secretary,
Q. Are you enjoying the summit?
A. It’s helping us develop a lot of skills necessary in the professional world and everywhere, really. Yesterday we went to the Ropes course. That turned out really well. When we were separated into groups we had to work together. We learned a lot about listening and communicating. The social media class was really applicable to us. A good majority of us are seniors. We’re going to be applying to colleges and we really need to watch what we say and do on social media.

Agatha and Orlinka Kereere
Orlinka Kereere – Mendham High School in Morris County, New Jersey
Q. What do you think of the summit?
A. This week I’ve learned that listening is important, because especially in times of disasters, you need to know how people feel. If you don’t communicate with them or listen to them, you’re not helping them at all. I’m glad our parents put us into this program. I’m going into 9th grade next year and I think I can bring a lot to my school. It sets a great example for my sister and me, and we can one day work for the Red Cross as well. I don’t know if my high school has a club, but I’d be interested in starting one.

Agatha Kereere – Emerson College, Boston Mass
Q. What are your feelings towards the Red Cross?
A. My background with the Red Cross started with our mother; she’s been an active participant in Red Cross.* I think we’re coming up on a decade. I was already familiar the organization’s principles and a lot of the work they do. I became a volunteer with the Red Cross my freshman year, and I’m about to be a senior. This week I’m shadowing the interns because I hope to intern for the Red Cross next summer in Greater New York.  I’m a journalism major/psychology minor and I’d love to be a broadcast journalist.
Q. What’s been most helpful to you this week?
A. The session on psychological first aid, taught by Desiree Diaz, really spoke to me. She gave us examples of people helping others, even if you’re not part of the Red Cross. I thought, this is a testament to helping your fellow person. You can do it in small ways. If you see someone crying you can off a tissue or ask, Hey what’s wrong? As a disaster responder you can give a debit card. I think the number one thing I learned that struck a chord with me was the strength of the human spirit.
*Agatha and Orlinka’s mom, Suzan Kereere, is Greater NY Red Cross board vice chair

Andrew Lee
Andrew Lee – Stuyvesant High School
Q. Talk about your involvement with your Red Cross Club
A. I’ve been with the Stuyvesant Red Cross club for three years—since I started high school. I like the fact that we build a community in our high school. I teach first aid and CPR that to my fellow students. I teach with my co-president next year. We teach about 400 juniors every year—about half of our junior grade—in conjunction with our health classes. They get credit for taking the class. We certify them in Adult First aid and CPR/AED. We run six classes a year; next year we’re expanding to eight classes. I feel like it’s a noble cause to teach high school students how to save lives. We’ve also certified some teachers.
Q. Thoughts about the summit?
A. I really like this week. It’s made me realize that there’s more to Red Cross than just First Aid and CPR. There’s disaster services; there’s International Humanitarian Law. I was so concentrated on the first aid, I wasn't as tuned into the other aspects of the Red Cross as I might have been.   
Q. Please talk about your involvement with the Red Cross. 
A. I really love the Red Cross; it’s been my life for the past three years. I hope to continue on in college and wherever I go in life. I’ve formed a special bond with the people who have been with me, not just people from my high school but people from other high schools. It’s great to get to know them and to learn what they’re doing at their schools.

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