Youth Spotlight: James Parry

James Parry began his Red Cross journey in October 2017 by volunteering with disaster relief efforts in his own community after a devastating wildfire. As a junior at Cardinal Newman High School located in Santa Rosa, CA, James witnessed firsthand the aftermath of the Tubbs Fire, the second most destructive wildfire in California history. Over 36,000 acres were destroyed and more than 2,800 homes in Santa Rosa were incinerated. Many of James’ close friends and classmates lost their homes and after seeing his own high school partially burn down, James worked with his peers to channel hopelessness into action.

Under the leadership of previous Youth Spotlight nominees Jackson Phillips and Patrick Foley, James helped gather donations for the Red Cross to aid those displaced by the fires, collecting both food and non-food items. The community rallied together and the drive was so successful that they ended up with surplus donations. According to James, “it was really cool to see the community come together like that. You see the resiliency of people. It’s terrible it happened but I’m glad it was able to motivate me to do something.”

Recruiting students for Red Cross Club at their school’s Service Fair

Now a high school senior, James has taken it upon himself to carry on this legacy of service. He is now one of the co-presidents of the Cardinal Newman High School Red Cross Club. At Cardinal Newman High School, all high school seniors are asked to work on an intensive service project by focusing on an organization in the community. Along with three of his peers, James has chosen to dedicate his year-long Community-Based Service Learning (CBSL) project to volunteering for the Red Cross. James saw how the Red Cross was “a great organization that opened up some real opportunities for change… giv[ing] you the opportunity to put in some real effort and get a good experience. All the infrastructure really helps you get out and make an immediate impact on your community.”

This year, James regularly volunteers with the Red Cross Sound the Alarm program, a series of home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events around the country in at-risk communities. Every week, James takes time from school to install fire alarms, usually in the homes of the elderly. Along with his CBSL project partners, they have almost met their goal of installing 20 alarms. In addition, he is currently training to present the Pillowcase Project, which teaches children how to stay safe in a disaster. Their goal is to reach 10 elementary schools by the end of the school year.

In his AP Capstone class last year, James researched the inequities that occur after natural disasters, particularly after fires. He was shocked to discover the wide gap between poor and wealthy neighborhoods in terms of the resources for recovery that are available, as well as the rate of recovery. This only reaffirmed his belief in the importance of the Red Cross as an organization that could help close the gap between those communities that could afford to recover, and those that couldn’t.

James selling ribbons at a football game to raise funds for the Camp Fire

Things came full circle earlier this year when the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history devastated the community of Paradise, CA. James saw another opportunity to give back. He organized his peers to write letters, collected gift cards from large retailers, and sold ribbons at high school football games to raise funds. With the help of a high school alumnus that matched donations, they raised $5,500 for the Paradise community. In this way, James said, “it was nice to be able to give back since we knew exactly what they were going through.”

When asked about how Red Cross has helped him grow personally, James said that the Red Cross has “deepened [his] connection to the community. I’ve been serving for awhile, but I’ve finally found a place where I can make a real impact on my community.”

Thank you for your service, James! James is a stellar example of a Red Cross volunteer, and we are truly honored to have him as a part of the national network of Red Cross volunteers serving the Red Cross mission: preventing and alleviating suffering wherever it may be found.

Monica Chang, National Youth Council Member, Crash Course Call Lead 

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