In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations declared August 12 as International Youth Day to raise awareness about the difficulties that young children and adolescents experience worldwide. This year's theme is intergenerational solidarity: creating a world for all ages, and its intended purpose is to encourage collaboration between generations to foster stronger connections. The goal is to combat ageism, which the World Health Organization defines as "the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) directed towards others or oneself, based on age. A key message of this year's International Youth Day is ensuring that we leave no one behind regardless of age.
At the American Red Cross, the youth play an integral role in supporting the organization's mission, and nearly 25 percent of the volunteers at the Red Cross are youth and young adults under 24. In South Florida, a group of young leaders make up the Red Cross Youth Executive Board which includes volunteers from across the region. The Board works diligently to support the Red Cross mission through creative and unique initiatives. On this year's International Youth Day, we at the South Florida Red Cross celebrate their contributions
Two key members of our South Florida Youth Board are its co-presidents Nandan Shastry and Sneha Polam who joined at its inception two years ago.
Nandan is currently a senior at Nova Southeastern University studying pre-med. He also serves as president of the Red Cross club at his university. There he oversees the day-to-day activities and events of the club. His goals as co-president of the board include collaborating with other Red Cross clubs within the region and continuing to encourage more youth to volunteer with the Red Cross.
Nandan has always been passionate about volunteering and joined the Red Cross in high school because he was drawn to the organization's mission and values. His passion for volunteering has led him to India, where he taught English and Math at underprivileged schools, and to Honduras, where he assisted a team of general and orthopedic surgeons as a medical assistant. He said, "In college, I realized that there was already such an established Red Cross community there, and I was really excited to be a part of it." He is grateful that he can do so much good in the world through the Red Cross.
Sneha Polam is a second-year medical student and also attends Nova Southeastern University. She hopes to specialize in pediatrics but is open to pursuing other fields in medicine. One of her personal goals includes working in underserved countries through organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. Sneha hopes to continue volunteering with the Red Cross throughout her medical career and beyond.medical student
When Sneha moved from New Jersey to Florida, she was looking for opportunities to become more involved in her new community. She stopped by the Red Cross booth at a school fair, and after learning of the volunteer opportunities, she joined immediately. Sneha says of the Red Cross, "I really like how there are so many different opportunities you can get into to volunteer within the community." In fact, one of Sneha's first volunteer opportunities was installing smoke alarms in Broward County through the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign.
As co-presidents of the Youth Executive Board, Nandan and Sneha support the Red Cross youth clubs across the region. They work with their fellow board members to plan and execute youth events and provide guidance and support for Red Cross clubs. Additionally, Nandan and Sneha serve as mentors for young adult volunteers as they transition out of high school and help to integrate them into other volunteer opportunities at the Red Cross.
Nandan and Sneha believe this year's International Youth Day theme aligns with their personal goals and volunteer roles within the Red Cross.
As Nandan said: "The Youth Executive Board was essentially created because we realized there was a lot of untapped resources in the volunteering potential of the youth." Since the birth of the Youth Executive Board two years ago, a great deal has been accomplished to foster more connections with the Red Cross clubs and its members. Regarding combating ageism, Nandan and Sneha want to ensure that everyone can feel included regardless of age. It is a big reason why they continue to be so passionate about their positions within the Red Cross.
Nandan and Sneha urged teenagers or young adults interested and passionate about volunteering to apply to be part of next year's Youth Executive Board. The Red Cross is always looking for compassionate individuals with diverse interests and skill sets to support the mission of the Red Cross. For more information on volunteer opportunities in your area, visit redcross.org/SFLvolunteer.
Written By Sarai Logan, American Red Cross Public Affairs