Leading For Change: Amy Leopold Receives National Red Cross Youth Leadership Award

Amy Leopold

For more than four years, Amy Leopold has been a committed Red Cross volunteer. And this year, her commitment was recognized by receiving the American Red Cross’s 2023 Navin Narayan Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership. The award is a prestigious honor presented to a youth volunteer who demonstrates exemplary leadership skills and Red Cross service. Among the 100,000 youth volunteers serving with the Red Cross across the country, only one receives the award each year.

Ms. Leopold began volunteering as part of her Community Day volunteer requirement at The College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota. She felt so drawn to the Red Cross mission that she became a youth board member at her local Red Cross chapter, also in Duluth. Since then, she has participated in more than a dozen different Red Cross program areas, ranging from smoke alarm installation, Veteran ‘stand down’ events, and hands-only CPR to Disaster Action Team response and calling blood donors. She has mentored several other students from her college, resulting in more than 20 new volunteers, and she puts her writing skills to important use through ‘thank you’ letters to volunteers, financial donors and partners that support the Red Cross mission.

“Whether through social media or her willingness to share her story, Amy consistently demonstrates to the community and her peers that there is a place in the Red Cross for young volunteers,” said Dan Williams, executive director of the American Red Cross serving Northern Minnesota. “She is an outstanding youth leader who continues to work to change the way youth in our Red Cross region connect with our humanitarian mission.”

National American Red Cross Presidet and CEO Gail McGovern and Amy Leopold, recipent of the 2023 Navin Narayan Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership, April 2023, Washington, D.C.

Leopold was also honored this year with the Northern Minnesota Red Cross chapter’s “Marguerite Grams Memorial Leadership Award” in recognition of exemplary leadership skills for her service as chair of the chapter’s mission committee.

The Navin Narayan Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership

Navin Narayan, a former chair of the American Red Cross National Youth Council, was a dedicated, compassionate and innovative youth volunteer. Mr. Narayan began his involvement with the Red Cross when he was only 14 years old by cleaning mannequins used to teach CPR, and quickly sought ways to become more involved. As a national disaster relief volunteer and trainer, international speaker on human rights, and tireless advocate for Red Cross causes, he changed the way youth are now connected to the American Red Cross. Tragically, at the age of 23, Mr. Narayan lost his battle with a rare form of cancer, but his legacy continues to live on through two honors the American Red Cross currently gives to youth volunteers in his name: the Navin Narayan Award for Excellence in Youth Leadership and the Navin Narayan College Scholarship.

Learn more about Red Cross volunteer opportunities for youth.

May is Military Appreciation Month

As part of our Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) activities, we’re proud to celebrate national Military Appreciation Month with service members, veterans and their families.

The American Red Cross has a long history of serving the U.S. military going back to the Civil War. Our founder, Clara Barton, also known as, “the angel of the battlefield,” participated in 16 separate battles during the war.

This proud service to our Armed Forces continues today in our region:

✔️ In April 2022, the Minnesota and Dakotas Region assisted with 56 emergency communications requests. The Red Cross is federally chartered to handle all emergency communications to our active-duty forces.

✔️ In April, we participated in deployment events where 54 military members and their families received much needed resiliency training. The Red Cross provides much needed resiliency training to deploying units and their families.

✔️ We also follow up with family members of deployed service members. In April, for example, 240 critical community service cases were completed.

🤗 These services happen only with the outstanding efforts of our SAF volunteers. We’d like to share our profound thanks to them for their generosity of time, kindness and expertise. You’re the best!

📷 This May, Red Cross youth volunteers delivered messages of gratitude and Girl Scout cookies at Veterans Affairs clinics in Hibbing, MN and Superior, WI and to VA homes in Silver Bay and Fergus Falls. Photo credit: Dan Williams/American Red Cross

Red Cross: One of my favorite experiences

Guest post by Christina Li

Leah, Christina and Caitlyn

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life, and volunteering with the Red Cross has definitely been one of my favorite experiences. Two years ago, I joined the Woodbury High School Red Cross Club. Of course, me being me, I had to drag a couple of friends along: first Leah, and then Caitlyn. We started off with basic projects like holiday cards for veterans and blood drives, but pretty soon us three (Caitlyn, Leah, and me) started looking for extra opportunities. We worked together on the Pillowcase Project and helped raise money for hurricane victims (which hopefully we’ll be running next year, fingers crossed). When we were presented with the opportunity to participate in the International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign, we were so excited. All of the projects we had done so far had been planned step by step for us, so this was the perfect chance to take control and leave an impact on those around us.

On the day of the training, we all got up super early and drove to the Red Cross office in Minneapolis. To be honest, we had no idea what to expect, and for me at least, I had no idea what International Humanitarian Law was. A little nervous, we walked into the classroom and… no one was there. Well, no students at least. At first, it was a little awkward being only 3 students in a room with 4 adults but, looking back, it was amazing to have that one-on-one type of learning environment. We were able to ask questions at anytime and launch into full scale debates about whatever we wanted. We talked about what International Humanitarian Law (IHL) was, what the Health Care in Danger (HCID) initiative was for, and, most importantly, what we could do about it. Being best friends with Leah and Caitlyn, the moment we 3 girls were set free to start designing our own campaign we all blurted the exact same idea. The hard part was in the details. Dr. Haji Dokhanchi, our instructor and a Red Cross volunteer, was incredibly helpful and we were able to pick his brain on what he thought would be most successful. We walked out of class practically talking over each other and bursting at the seams with different ideas.

Although we’re only sophomores, all of our schedules are filled with school and extracurricular activities, which made it really hard for us to work on our presentation all at the same time. We resorted to working on chunks at a time, and with the help of Dr. Nour Sinada, our club adviser, we finished our script and were ready to present. After countless emails, March 18th finally came, day one of our week of presentations. Teaching wasn’t a new experience for any of us, but teaching a class of 30 squirmy freshmen definitely was. We had become very passionate about the topic, and we tried to convey that in the way that we presented.

A week later, we had taught around 270 students in classrooms and reached out to over 1,000 students over social media. During and after the campaign, we were met with so many supportive students and faculty. We even had 46 students contact us about either joining the club or volunteering for the Red Cross. We couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity to raise awareness for the Health Care in Danger campaign and for all of the people who have helped us accomplish our goal. We’d like to specifically thank the teachers who lent us their classrooms along with Dan Williams and Dr. Haji Dokhanchi, both of the Red Cross. This has been one of the most vigorous projects we have ever taken on, but it also became an extremely positive experience for our team and club, as well as for also our school and community.

Thank you all for this wonderful experience!

Eden Prairie Students Lift Military Heroes Hearts

(R to L) Students Shea Brennan, Jenny Leestma, and Bella Wheeler, with regional executive Phil Hansen (far left).
(R to L) Students Shea Brennan, Jenny Leestma, and Bella Wheeler, with Red Cross northern Minnesota regional executive Phil Hansen (far left).

Last fall, two Eden Prairie High School business clubs engaged their entire school in a massive Holiday Mail for Heroes card-signing event for the American Red Cross.

The group, led by seniors Jenny Leestma, Bella Wheeler and Shea Brennan, worked with their principal to distribute blank cards to each homeroom, hang posters and banners throughout the school building, and even created a program where students could sign multiple cards in exchange for required volunteer hours. In the end, the students collected over 1,500 cards for deployed soldiers and veterans and estimated that 1,000 students participated in the project.

After the event, students read through the signed cards to ensure all messages were appropriate. “We saw that [the project] touched the students when we began to read through the cards and saw the amazing thought and effort put into so many of them,” says Jenny Leestma, one of the student leaders of the project. “It was truly a blessing to contribute to such an amazing program!”

Holiday Mail for Heroes is an annual event coordinated by the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Department, which supports members of the U.S. Military, its veterans and their families. This past year, people from across the country sent a record number of 2.1 million cards, including the cards from the Eden Prairie High School students.

The American Red Cross also has additional way for groups of youth to get involved with our programs. For more information please visit our website.

Thank you to the students at Eden Prairie High School for enthusiastically participating in Holiday Mail for Heroes, and extra thanks to the DECA/BPA students who worked so hard to make this year’s event a huge success!

Story by Lisa Joyslin, Volunteer Resources Director, American Red Cross Northern Minnesota Region. Photo credit: Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

Hello Summer!

Purchased at a Minneapolis garage sale for 25 cents, “Red Cross Stories for Children” by Georgene Faulkner. (Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross)

Summer is the season of many things: sprinklers and flip-flops, Popsicles and fireworks. And garage sales. Stumbling across one this past weekend in Minneapolis yielded a book called Red Cross Stories for Children that the American National Red Cross (as it was once known) published in 1917. Children’s book author Georgene Faulkner composed these stories about “self-sacrifice and devoted skill” as a means to teach children about Red Cross ideals. The tattered spine and fragile pages have rendered the book obsolete for library use, but the words hold up for summer story-telling on the porch or inside the backyard tent with a flashlight and smores.

Happy Summer Everyone!

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