By Caroline Churchill, American Red Cross

Not all high school students would consider sitting inside of a conference room as their go-to activity on a Saturday morning but 70 youth did just that at the recent American Red Cross Youth Leadership Conference, hosted by Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston. The annual event is an opportunity for students from around the Texas Gulf Coast to develop an interest in civic contributions as well as leadership skills that will help them throughout their lives.

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Kimberley Patel (center in white t-shirt) with Youth Service Council members from Bellaire, Westside, Cy Ranch, La Feria and Travis High Schools

According to Kimberley Patel, Red Cross Regional Volunteer Manager, the earliest recorded youth engagement with the Red Cross was in 1864 when children raised $50 to support the Midwestern floods. It was during World War II, though, that young people across the United States knitted socks and prepared care packages for the military and Red Cross volunteerism kicked off. Today, about half of Red Cross volunteers around the world are youth.

“The youth of today create a powerful impact in our world,” said Patel. This conference is about the opportunity to impact change, and where change is unexpected, how to be prepared to respond to it.”



Trying not to laugh during the ‘Ha’ game/icebreaker

Coming from as far as Harlingen on the Texas/Mexico border, the students focused on empowerment and celebrated 100 years of youth innovation and service. Their day began with icebreaking sessions facilitated by the Youth Development Council and continued with 14 learning sessions ranging from peer-to-peer education on college life to how to give an outstanding presentation. Facilitators included Red Cross volunteers from Texas A&M University and experts in social media and public speaking. Other sessions provided participants with the opportunity to learn leadership qualities, including living a diverse and inclusive life.

So what did the students think? Samantha Su, Bellaire High School student and Red Cross Youth Service Council Member reflected, “The Leadership Conference is an important event because it brings people together from all over Texas to learn about Red Cross and the meaning of service and volunteerism. I love attending and hosting it because I get to share my expertise with others and learn from them as well.”

Varsha Vasu, Travis High School and Red Cross Youth Service Council, joined in with “It was a blast this year! From the interactive sessions to the food, I was able to both lead and learn.”

If you are interested in joining a Red Cross Youth group, please visit