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All in the Family
Posted 08/10/2020 10:53AM

Given his family unit, it’s not surprising Nick Rizos ’23 founded a North Shore youth chapter of the American Red Cross

Nick Rizos '23It’s been a long six months for, well, the world, and Nick Rizos ’23 has been closer to the pandemic than many. Both of his parents, Demetri and Susan, have served as frontline medical professionals in crowded COVID-19 wards treating the sickest and most vulnerable patients. Meanwhile, their son, Nick, was volunteering for the Red Cross, working the intake desk at blood drives and assessing donors’ temperatures before clearing them for entry. Surprisingly, the experience left the St. John’s sophomore feeling more helpless than gratified.

“Started volunteering as a Donor Ambassador, but I felt like it wasn’t enough,” he explains. “St. John’s Prep overcame every possible obstacle to ensure that students continued to both learn and feel connected to teachers and peers this past spring. I wanted to help my community in some fashion.”

After reaching out to the youth leadership team of the American Red Cross, Rizos decided to create a North Shore youth chapter. “The Red Cross Club provides young people opportunities that make a meaningful impact in their communities—both by addressing the greatest needs and by developing leadership skills,” says Rizos. “This club will empower us with knowledge and life-saving skills to help us prepare schools and communities to respond to emergencies.”

The teen didn’t have to look far for inspiration. When the pandemic hit New York, his father temporarily left his post at Beverly Hospital to offer his services at North Central Bronx Hospital. Upon his arrival, Demetri Rizos, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, began working 12-hour shifts in a 14-bed post-anesthesia care unit converted to intensive care. Leading a team of 20 medical professionals caring for critically ill COVID-19 patients, Rizos began making life-and-death decisions hundreds of miles from home, and did so for six weeks. Meanwhile, his wife, Susan, performed a similar role as a critical care nurse at Beverly Hospital.

As infection-rates accelerated in Massachusetts, Rizos wanted to feel useful. “I just couldn’t sit at home anymore,” he says. The newly established North Shore Community Club (NSCC) means he won’t have to anymore.

Club members must be registered Red Cross volunteers, which can be accomplished by visiting the Volunteer Connection database (volunteerconnection.redcross.org). The club will fall under the oversight and guidance of the Massachusetts Regional Youth Engagement Team and student involvement will occur at both the community and state level. After two years of experience, student volunteers can apply to become part of the Red Cross National Youth Council. Students between the ages of 13 and 17 may join the new club if they attend any North Shore technical, private, or public high school.

“One quarter of all Red Cross volunteers are under the age of 24,” says Holly Grant, CEO of the American Red Cross for the Massachusetts Region. “Many of them started in high school, and you’d be amazed how many of those same volunteers will continue giving time to the Red Cross well into adulthood, in addition to mentoring the next generation. Volunteering gives youth an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives they serve. It also helps them build leadership skills that will serve them well in college and beyond. Most importantly, it’s a lesson in how an act of kindness right here on the North Shore can be felt all around the world. We thank Nick for being a new leader in our mission.”

Rizos plans on holding quarterly meetings for the new club, which is unaffiliated with St. John’s Prep. The forums will be held virtually for the time being. Club members will benefit from access to statewide Red Cross volunteering opportunities, including basic life support training, lifeguard training, blood-drive coordination, a home fire-safety campaign, training in international humanitarian law (IHL) and lectures by senior state EMS officials, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.

Rizos has plans for the club to host a Fall Activities Fair. In addition, he would like club members to attend the IHL Youth Action Campaign’s Annual Summit in July 2021. After participating in that campaign, members can help lead a free, one-day course to train policy professionals, government officials, educators, and the general public regarding the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law.

For more information about joining the North Shore’s new Red Cross youth chapter, Rizos can be contacted at nrizos23@stjohnsprep.org.

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