A member of the Community Emergency Response Team assists an injured woman
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New Members Join the Youth Preparedness Council

July 2022

FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council (YPC) celebrates its 10th anniversary this year by welcoming 15 new council members, who will join 10 returning members. The YPC offers an opportunity for teens in grades 8 through 12 with a passion for preparedness to share their ideas and feedback with FEMA. They also grow their leadership skills and support the resilience of their communities through designing preparedness projects. Each July, YPC members participate in an annual summit with FEMA leaders and preparedness professionals to learn more about the field and network.

New members are chosen through a rigorous application process, with more than 100 applicants this year. Congratulations to our new YPC members, and welcome to the council!

Learn more about the new members below. More biographical information about each member is also available at the YPC website.

Aarushi Bute

After witnessing a lack of training in how to use naloxone (also known as Narcan) to save people from overdosing on opioids in her community, Aarushi, a rising 12th grade student, became interested in emergency preparedness. She is now working in her community to address the intersection of mental health and substance abuse problems. Aarushi is president of Rockwood Youth Connection, a local coalition dedicated to providing peer-to-peer conversations on youth substance abuse. She is also editor-in-chief of her high school’s newspaper and works with the American Red Cross as a district representative in Missouri, helping involve more youth in emergency preparedness.

Amanda Cisse

Amanda, a rising 10th grade student in New York, would like to help students in underserved communities prepare for their futures through education and financial preparedness. Amanda’s research paper on addressing food insecurity issues in the New York City Public Schools won at the symposium at the International Socioeconomics Laboratory, where she is now the editor-in-chief of its journal. She also twice received a scholarship from the Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth to Study Mandarin.

Katie Clark

Katie is a rising 12th grade student and International Baccalaureate diploma candidate from Washington state. After the Eagle Creek Fire burned down almost 47,000 acres near her home in 2017, Katie found herself drawn to preventing future disasters by helping to improve emergency preparedness in her community and across the nation. Since then, she has been actively involved in the American Red Cross, serving as the president of the Southwest Washington Youth Council.

Lauren Coval

A rising 12th grade student from Colorado, Lauren’s interest in emergency preparedness began a decade ago when wildfires destroyed many friends’ homes. She has volunteered with her local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) in “chipping” events, in which community members bring brush and fallen tree limbs from around their houses to help reduce fuel for wildfires. Lauren started her school’s first Teen CERT, hosting a community Wildfire Preparedness Day event.

Sophie Fares

Sophie is a rising 10th grade student and International Baccalaureate diploma candidate from California. During her time as a Region 9 YPC member, Sophie has been involved in bringing the Sandy Hook Promise, a school safety program, into her school district. Sophie is also a member of the Fair Oaks Youth Advisory Board, a youth-oriented program designed to foster leadership skills while building programs and events that benefit the whole community.

Meher Harjani

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida in 2021, Meher joined others in helping small businesses pick up glass, sweep floors and salvage whatever wasn’t broken. The experience helped the New Jersey teen see how a community can come together to support those affected by a disaster. At school, Meher, a rising 12th grade student, is captain of the debate team and coaches middle school students in debate.

Kemi Heyward-Rotimi

Kemi is a rising 12th grade student from North Carolina with a passion for promoting disaster preparedness in marginalized and vulnerable communities. Through his involvement with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, Kemi began to understand the long-lasting impacts natural disasters can have on communities and individuals. Kemi’s other work includes a study on the school-to-prison pipeline, expanding his school’s sex education curriculum to be more inclusive, and reducing food insecurity and waste in his community.

Layla Ibrahim

For Layla, a rising 12th grade student from Virginia, controlling climate change is a key to preventing increasingly serious natural disasters. As an intern with Global Leadership Adventures, she researched sustainability and how to implement eco-friendly practices in daily life. Layla is working to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, focusing on environmental sustainability and plastic pollution.

Theodor (Theo) Illarionov

Theo, a rising 11th grade student from Massachusetts, volunteers with his local fire department. He is particularly interested in preparing for and responding to wildfires that spread into developed areas, and how climate change is contributing to their spread. serving for two years on his school’s Student Advisory Committee, Theo was elected by the student body to After represent students on the school board. Theo is also a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

Vaishnavi Kumbala

Hurricane Ida’s impact on her Louisiana hometown in 2021 sparked Vaishnavi’s interest in emergency preparedness. After noticing effects of the hurricane and COVID-19 on youth mental health, Vaishnavi created a web platform that aims to provide support and resources, which won her district’s Congressional App Challenge. While on the YPC, the rising 10th grade student seeks to analyze how disaster preparedness can be added to school curricula.

Ryan Liu

Texas teen Ryan leads his high school’s public health and emergency preparedness volunteer team. The rising 11th grade student is currently working on a project to design and distribute first aid kits for visually impaired and blind students. The kits include large text and braille instructions, as well as brightly colored tape. His earlier work includes participating in a clean water distribution event after a 2021 winter storm shut off power to his community and other areas of Texas.

Navin Ramesh

Navin is a rising 11th grade student from Massachusetts. Through his volunteer work with the American Red Cross, the American Medical Association, and the Medical Reserve Corps, Navin learned firsthand that preparedness plays a critical role in reducing the impact of natural disasters and emergencies. Throughout the pandemic, he scheduled regular blood drives to maintain national blood supply levels. Navin has also led Psychological First Aid training for all 10 FEMA regions.

Janice Saji

Janice, a rising 12th grade student from Michigan, is an active member of the Region 5 YPC. She has helped young students experiencing mild cognitive impairment create emergency kits and learn about safety. Janice is also developing social media graphics and messaging to promote safety tips through her local library’s teen Instagram page. Her work has been featured in FEMA’s Individual & Community Preparedness newsletter.

Neha Srinivasan

Neha, a rising 11th grade student from Oregon has participated in CERT clean-up efforts during and after recent wildfires and ice storms. When living in India, Neha also helped her community recover from flooding by distributing supplies and finding shelter for people in need. As part of the Region 10 YPC, Neha has hosted workshops to educate youth and adults about disaster medical operations, CERT, and disaster preparedness.

Taylor Worbington

Taylor is a rising 12th grade student from Florida. She is interested in the formation of extreme weather events and the ways people can plan for and respond to emergencies. As a member of the Region 4 YPC, Taylor spoke to elementary school students about the emergencies and hazards common in Florida. She recently began training in Psychological First Aid and with the National Weather Service.

This article first appeared in the quarterly Individual and Community Preparedness Newsletter.  Subscribe here

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