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Learning from Each Other

I go for anything new that might improve the past.

Katie Parsell, director of Community Resiliency at the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter (Philadelphia), welcomes change. She encourages her staff - employees and volunteers - and the public health majors participating in the chapter’s internship program, to frequently evaluate and freshen the way they work and to share best practices.

Parsell often quotes Red Cross founder Clara Barton, who said, “I go for anything new that might improve the past.”

Exchanging Knowledge

All employees and volunteers participate in the knowledge exchange. Tessi Ruiz, a former intern who has recently been hired to provide community preparedness education, talks about the weekly meetings that include Red Cross staff and interns. She talks about the training she received in public speaking and leadership, and how the internship “took her out of her shell.” Because of the great mentoring, “I realized how much I like working with youth,” she said.

Interns recruited from the Department of Public Health at Temple University, of which Ruiz was one, take American Red Cross preparedness education into the community. They may teach adults how to build a disaster kit and a safety plan to help keep their family safe should an emergency occur. Or, because preparedness starts in the elementary grades, the instruction may be about home alone safety, basic first aid or good hand washing techniques.

Interns learn how to deliver a public speech; each shadows a Red Crosser before giving a presentation alone. As interns are mentored, staff helps them think about their professional and personal goals. The chapter is working on an intern professional development program where they will attend trainings and workshops to help prepare them for the workforce.

Employees and volunteers also learn. Interns created a Google docs account where information can be shared and revised as needed. They helped update the internship curricula so new interns are mentored not only by staff, but also by peers. Interns have also designed an expansion plan that extends the internship program to other Philadelphia-area universities.

At the American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter, learning from each other knows no limits. The multi-generational approach enriches Red Cross programs. Students gain workplace skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives, as well as knowing first-hand the personal satisfaction that comes from serving as a volunteer.

Tags: Volunteer.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.