USF Red Cross Clubs: A National Model

The American Red Cross hails USF’s Red Cross Clubs as its model for university organizations nationwide.


By Mary Beth Erskine News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 5, 2010) – USF students who are members of the university’s American Red Cross Club have taught more than 6,000 local children basic first aid.


They have trained hundreds of adults in CPR. In fact, during the 2010 “Certify-a-Bull” event, they taught a record-setting 235 students and community members the life-saving skill in a single day.


They have raised more than $5,000 for Haiti Relief and $6,000 for the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter.


They have responded to hundreds of single-family fires in the Tampa Bay area, comforting adults, children and seniors who have been rendered homeless and providing emergency aid in their first hours of need.


The number of visits they have made to the local VA hospital, sharing compassion and companionship with injured veterans is endless.


And all of that is, literally, only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact students in clubs in both Tampa and St. Petersburg have had on the USF, local and global communities.


Red Cross Principles in Action


Founded just three years ago, USF’s American Red Cross Club on the Tampa campus club boasts more than 1,100 members and is the university’s fastest-growing student organization. More than 100 students are members of the club at USF St. Petersburg, and both clubs received USF’s 2010 Organization of the Year.


Part of the largest humanitarian organization in the world, the USF club holds a unique distinction.


It is the club the national Red Cross wants other universities to emulate.


On a recent trip to Tampa to meet with students and USF President Judy Genshaft, Gerald DeFrancisco, president of Humanitarian Services for the American Red Cross, announced that the Red Cross has designated the USF club as the model for Red Cross clubs around the country for engaging young adults. The national office is even producing a video about the club that the Red Cross will use as a training resource for other universities.


“The things you are doing are incredible,” DeFrancisco told students. “You embody the spirit of the Red Cross. You have leaped beyond the classic club and have integrated yourself totally with the local chapter. You’re not just an adjunct – you are part of the chapter and part of the community. And I want to repeat that model with other clubs nationally.”


Being named a national model was far from Associate Professor Robin Ersing’s mind when a group of students from the USF School of Social Work approached her after Hurricane Katrina. They wanted to become trained in disaster response, so she contacted the local Red Cross chapter. Guided by Natasha Salazar, the Tampa Bay chapter’s youth specialist who serves as USF liaison, Ersing, who became the club’s faculty advisor, and students spent those early days establishing disaster preparedness, volunteering at the local VA hospital and conducting a measles initiative on campus.


The club grew significantly in 2009 with the launch of a Disaster Action Team, First Aid Station Teams, Red Cross for Kids and CPR classes on campus, and the addition of a club at USF St. Petersburg.


According to Salazar, what makes the USF Club unique and has aided in attracting new members is that it is structured around the Red Cross mission with committees mirroring the components of the national organization: Disaster Services, Service to Armed Forces, Health & Safety, International Affairs, Red Cross for Kids, Fundraising and Public Affairs.


This is not the case with other university Red Cross clubs. “Others choose the activities and events they want to participate in such as fundraising or CPR training. The USF clubs include all Red Cross components and members decide on their area of interest. That approach makes the organization appealing to a much broader student base.”


Providing Aid, Offering Hope


According to Linda Jorge Carbone, regional chief executive officer, what brought USF to the attention of the national Red Cross is the relationship between the local Red Cross chapter and the university.


“Students at USF understand the mission of the Red Cross,” she said. “We know we can count on them to make a huge difference in the community. Whether it’s helping us open shelters if a hurricane threatens, or responding to a fire, they come prepared to help clients with their most essential emergency needs: food, clothing, shelter and – most of all – hope.”


The club is an invaluable resource for the local Red Cross chapter, the local community, and for the university community, as well. Focused on creating a culture of preparedness on campus, members provide CPR and first aid training to departments and offices across the university.


“It’s amazing how many events and activities the club has undertaken in its short existence,” said Ersing. “It’s a very driven and committed group of students, united by their passion to give back.”


“I joined the Red Cross because I wanted to make an impact globally,” said Nora Abdel-Rahim, USF Red Cross Club junior president. “And that’s exactly what the Red Cross teaches. We teach students that they can make a difference.”


“Seeing all the ways that the Red Cross impacts other people’s lives has changed my own,” said Ramzy Lotfi, senior president for the club. “I have become more aware of many local and international issues – and I have learned that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”


Mary Beth Erskine can be reached at 813-974-6993.