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More than just the Heimlich maneuver

Whether it’s providing emergency training, professional experience for students or local disaster relief, USF’s American Red Cross chapter (ARCUSF) deals with lives on and off campus.

ARCUSF has a membership of more than 1,200 students who participate in Red Cross meetings, fundraisers and various volunteering opportunities, doing everything from helping out at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital to holding lifeguard training sessions.

The USF chapter has established six committees: Public Affairs, Fundraising, Health & Safety, International Services, Service to the Armed Forces and Disaster Services.

Currently, the American Red Cross has 32,000 paid positions around the U.S., and one in every 200 Americans is a volunteer, according to the American Red Cross website.

In addition to volunteering, students also have the opportunity for leadership experience by becoming a director or officer of the various committees.

Shaun Raquipo, a junior majoring in microbiology, is the chair of the Disaster Services committee. He said he and members of the Disaster Action team provide community relief in emergency situations.

“The main type of involvement volunteers encounter when they join disaster services is going out on ‘fire calls’,” he said. “This means that they visit the victims of single-family or multi-family fires.”

Natalia Vandeberg, a USF senior majoring in public relations, is a co-chair officer of public affairs and said she has used those skills first hand. Though she said she enjoys the professional opportunities the organization provides, Vandeberg said a specific emergency motivated her to become a Red Cross member.

“Skills I was taught in school allowed me to save my daughter’s life when I saw her choking on a lollipop,” she said. “After seeing its affect on my life, I became a member.”

Members who join the USF chapter aren’t required to participate to maintain a membership, but the organization has created several different opportunities to allow students with busier schedules to get involved.

Vandeberg referred to such opportunities as “micro-volunteering.” Micro-volunteering consists of various tasks that don’t require a lot of time to complete, such as writing letters to active duty military or retired veterans, working with social media sites like Twitter or Facebook in the public relations committee or teaching first aid to children.

Guided by a set of six principles, members of the Red Cross have opportunities for personal growth as well. Vandeberg said members are exposed to a pool of students who offer friendship and networking opportunities. Each month, the chapter holds a social, offering members free food and activities. She said Red Cross gives members a chance to learn skills, for free, that classrooms cannot teach.

“I attended a weekend training session and learned about communication and team-building skills,” Vandeberg said. “After the training, I felt I learned a lot about building relationships within your community.”

Student members also said they decided to join to add to their resumes, carrying their experiences past graduation.

Allie Cymbaluk, who graduated from USF last spring with a degree in telecommunications, said she has begun volunteering at the local Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter as a liaison between the organization and the media.

“I chose to volunteer at the Red Cross for how globally recognized the organization is, as well as the core mission of the organization.” she said, “It’s also been rewarding because you work with people who love their job and do it because they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

Vandeberg said that over the next two months, ARCUSF will hold CPR classes in Marshall Student Center Room 2707; the first on Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the second Nov. 5 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vandeberg said the price for the course has not been announced, but students will receive a “significant discount.” She also said ARCUSF will hold its annual Certify-a-bull CPR training sometime in the spring – aiming to certify more than 500 people.