The American Red Cross holds an annual national awards and recognition ceremony to honor exceptional employees and volunteers and this year, Paolo Martinez was awarded the Navin Narayan Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership.

The award is given to a Red Cross youth volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills and service to the organization. Only one Red Cross youth from across the country is given this honor and we are excited it is a student from the Texas Gulf Coast.

Martinez began his service with the Red Cross during the 2016 Tax Day floods supporting the office of volunteer services. Less than four weeks later, disaster struck again and he continued to help support response activities during the Memorial Day floods. “I was able to recruit other youth to come in and assist in the office of volunteer services,” said Martinez. “I learned that just by walking through the door and putting myself out there, I had become a youth leader in my community.”

In the time that followed, Martinez has volunteered with the Red Cross on multiple occasions, tirelessly helping before, during and after a disaster. This drive to take on more and more responsibility, would give him the tools he needed to become a youth leader and inspire others to become leaders themselves. “With the training I acquired in volunteer services, I was able to start a club at my high school and serve as president,” said Martinez.

His passion for community engagement and the Red Cross mission during times of disaster proved invaluable when Hurricane Harvey hammered the Texas Gulf Coast. Not only did he lead the team that signed up thousands of volunteers at the George R. Brown mega-shelter, but he was also asked to serve as the volunteer coordinator for the newly formed Latino engagement team. He was able to recruit and train a bilingual team that worked to ensure an under-served population had access to Red Cross programs and services. His actions during this time, led to him becoming the Hurricane Harvey Long Term Recovery program manager for volunteer community outreach and engagement.

Martinez, now a freshman at the University of Texas at San Antonio, actively works to strengthen the presence of the Red Cross on his new campus. “I am now able to use all that I have learned to start another club here,” said Martinez. “I plan to recruit as many hardworking and committed youth as I can to grow the influence of the Red Cross both here on campus and in my new community.”

Although he now lives in San Antonio most of the year, Martinez has remained steadfast in his commitment to the Texas Gulf Coast region, requesting a seasonal transfer so he would be able to continue to volunteer with his home-town chapter when school is not in session.

Congratulations Paolo!

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