By Matthew Jervis
For many students, finding their passion can be a difficult and trying process. Deciding upon which career to pursue often requires experience and time – two things that can be tough to come by, especially for college students. Ricky Licona, October Volunteer of the Month, generously volunteers his time with the Red Cross while engaging in his passion for food and nutrition.
Ricky is currently studying Food and Nutrition for his undergraduate degree at San Diego State University in hopes of becoming a registered dietician. During the summer of 2019, Ricky remained in San Diego to participate in summer classes and enjoy the perks of living in San Diego. When he was not working or attending class, Ricky sought out opportunities to become more involved in the community and in the field of nutrition. He found that opportunity with the American Red Cross WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program.
While at a Red Cross CPR class, Ricky learned about local WIC volunteer opportunities. WIC, a nutrition assistance program that improves the nutrition and health of families, provides monthly assistance to purchase healthy foods, nutrition education with registered dieticians, breastfeeding support for new and expectant mothers, referrals to useful community resources and more.
Ricky applied to become volunteer and was thrilled to find out how easy it was to get involved. “It felt great to give back to the community and hear stories from the participants we were helping out,” said Ricky. For him, it’s all about making a positive impact on families. “Early into this summer’s Farmer’s Market Program, I had a brief conversation with some of our local WIC participants. It was a mom, dad, and their son. This was their first time shopping at any farmers market. The family was engaging during the education session and after shopping for their fruits and vegetables using the WIC-provided coupons, they came back to thank us for the help. This made me more appreciative of growing up in San Diego with markets open all week-long, and energized me to continue helping more after seeing the first-hand impact our services have on participants.”
While Ricky’s experiences volunteering have been meaningful on a personal level, they have also strengthened his network within the professional community of food and nutrition experts. Seeing some of the same faces at both Red Cross WIC events as well as at school furthered his connections to resources for his career and future endeavors. “The American Red Cross and the WIC Farmers Market Program have been nothing short of fantastic,” says Ricky. “The staff is friendly, flexible, and professional to sum up in a few words. The range of volunteer opportunities and services this historic organization offers permits you to give back to the community, network and have fun while helping out.”
For more information on WIC, please visit sandiegowic.org. To become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer.