Leadership Development Center: Through the decades

Historic Red Cross youth conference pivots to create increased access for students

Youth development conference screenshot. Photo courtesy of LDC 2021.

This year, the American Red Cross Northern California Coastal Region hosted a four-day virtual youth development conference from June 21-24, attended by more than 225 student delegates and 20 youth staff. While this year’s Leadership Development Center (LDC) was modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it still provided an opportunity for youth ages 13-18 to develop and cultivate core leadership skills such as teamwork, public speaking and diversity awareness through virtual presentations, workshops and small group discussions. 

The staff prepared for seven months to plan the curriculum and activities for the conference, all from scratch. Camp directors Emily Elmore and Gaby Azcarate led the process, and while the directors and youth staff were afraid that some of the camaraderie that delegates get in their small groups would be lost in this modified format, they worked hard to make sure that planned activities included opportunities for delegates to get to know each other and work as a team, even in a virtual environment. 

“A positive note on the virtual conference is that it opened the door to have students attend who otherwise may not have been able to spend a full week with us in person,” said Allie Parker, Red Cross Volunteer and Youth Services Manager. “We were also able to invite more guest speakers to join us who may have had more difficulties attending an event in person.”  

For decades, LDC has provided an opportunity for youth in communities across Northern California to learn about disaster preparedness, diversity, international services and more, while helping participants become young leaders. In turn, it has also allowed the Red Cross to build a better understanding of the communities we serve.

Photo courtesy of Stan Dutrow.

Stan Dutrow, a Red Cross Silicon Valley Chapter Board Member and volunteer, can personally attest to the significance of LDC and the effect this Red Cross experience can have on one’s life. Stan attended LDC in 1969 as a high school student, and what followed was a long history with the Red Cross. 

“We were there when the U.S. landed on the moon – we were all crammed into a cabin watching the moon landing on a black and white TV, so that was pretty memorable,” Stan recalled. 

In addition to his work on the Board of Directors, Stan has also completed multiple Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED certifications. He currently assists all Red Cross lines of service with questions and challenges related to technology, and proudly wears the title of 10-gallon blood donor. 

So, what is it that has kept Stan involved with the Red Cross throughout the years? “I believe in the Red Cross and its mission of helping people in their time of need,” he said.  

As for the future of LDC in the next few decades? The Red Cross Youth Services team is hopeful that delegates and staff can come back together in person next year. Even if that is not the case, the team is exploring new and innovative ways to provide more online opportunities for young Red Crossers to participate in local youth programs. As this year’s conference clearly demonstrated, there are ample opportunities for engagement, no matter the format.