Jialin "Joanna" Hu, an 18-year-old resident of San Jose, has been selected to receive the American Red Cross's 2016 Navin Narayan College Scholarship. Hu, who plans to enroll at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall, received word in mid-May that her volunteer work on behalf of the Silicon Valley Chapter was being rewarded with the prestigious scholarship.
"I was very surprised when I heard the news, but I am so honored to be chosen to receive this award," says Hu, who has served in multiple youth leadership roles for the Red Cross since first being exposed to the organization through her high school Red Cross Club.
The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to a single Red Cross youth volunteer in the United States each year. To be eligible, the volunteer has to be a high school senior planning to attend a four-year college or university, and have served a minimum of two years as a Red Cross volunteer.
Hu's qualifications go well beyond the minimum, says the Red Cross employee who supervises her work. Jonathan Bernier, Volunteer and Youth Services manager for the American Red Cross of the Silicon Valley, says Hu joined the chapter's Youth Executive Board as co-coordinator of the Youth International Committee in 2013. Because of the quality of her work with her youth peers, Hu was subsequently promoted to two other chapter positions: Youth Club liaison coordinator and then co-chair of the Youth Executive Board.
While Hu's Red Cross resume is plenty impressive, it wasn't the only factor that led Bernier to nominate her. "Joanna is one of the most well-rounded people I've met," Bernier says. "And she is so human in her interactions with other people, a quality that is pretty rare for someone her age."
The people Hu has touched through her years of Red Cross volunteer work all marvel at leadership talents she possesses that belie her age. "Joanna sets an example by putting in the work," Bernier says. "But it's more than that; because of the way she interacts with others, she inspires very strong loyalty in the many people who have the good fortune to work with her."
Logan Ferlito held Bernier's position before becoming Volunteer and Youth Services officer for the entire Northern California Coastal Region. In her former position, she too witnessed Hu's growth as a young leader. "What makes Joanna so special is that she is very thoughtful and very humble. As a leader, she doesn't act like she has to be in charge; but her unassuming style really makes a difference in everything she works on and for everyone she works with."
The Navin Narayan College Scholarship is the only scholarship that the American Red Cross gives at a national level. "We couldn't be more proud of Joanna for this well-deserved honor," Ferlito adds.
Hu, meanwhile, says everything about her Red Cross experience has been a good fit for her. "I have learned so much through my involvement with the organization," she says. "But probably the most important thing I've learned is that it's important to have a social mission. Through the Red Cross, I have learned to commit to something that's beyond just myself."
Volunteers with the organization can often recall an inspirational "moment" that forever cements their relationship with the Red Cross. For Hu, that moment came during a special event hosted by the Youth International Committee; the guest speaker was a refugee from Syria — a young man about her own age.
"His story about his family fleeing the war and about the violence and turmoil that they had to endure was really penetrating," she says.
Red Cross experiences like that one helped steer Hu toward a major she intends to pursue at the University of Pennsylvania. "I am very interested in Nursing and Healthcare Management," says Hu, who as a Red Cross volunteer helped organize eight blood drives at her high school in San Jose, Evergreen Valley High.
"I want to be able to help people by using a combination of medical knowledge and a commitment to social change," she adds. "That's the mindset of the Red Cross."