Guillermo CarvajalBy Nicole Ginley-Hidinger

Each week, the Girls’ and Boys’ Achievers Academy students at Northgate Elementary hear from speakers about a variety of topics. On this day, representatives from the American Red Cross were on hand to teach emergency preparedness skills. To introduce the Red Cross presenters, Instructor Guillermo Carvajal, a Family Support Worker with the Seattle School District, begins by sharing a story about how the Red Cross helped him after a house fire.

“We lived in a very old house and under the stairs leading to the main floor, a fire had started,” Carvajal said. “We didn’t know how … we lost everything. It moved fast. The Red Cross called me and asked if I needed some help.”

For nine years, he held onto the Target t-shirts he received through the Red Cross for sentimental reasons.

“I was able to get blankets and bedding and I was able to get beds later when I secured another apartment,” he said. “[The Red Cross] made me feel comfortable and safe … that there were people behind me, and the resources they provided were enough to make me feel comfortable. I have never forgotten that.”

Nearly 15 years later, he invited the Red Cross Youth Preparedness instructors to teach Basic First Aid to his students.

“I wanted to at least give them an idea what should be done and who to talk to in the case of an emergency,” he said. “Kids need to have the tools so that when a situation appears in front of them, they don’t panic. They think, ‘oh yeah, I can handle that. I remember this piece.’”

The Basic First Aid class teaches kids what to do to help someone who is choking, how to wrap a bandage, and how to tie a sling. It is one of five classes the Red Cross youth department teaches to prepare youth for natural disasters and emergencies.

“The Red Cross is hugely important,” he added. “If you get a cut, what are you going to do? If you wipe out on your bike, what are you going to do? Who do you call? I think it’s something we should have instituted in all the schools to start getting the basic idea of what it is to help somebody.”

After his experience with the Red Cross, Carvajal connects his friends and the families he supports with their services.

“I tell people I went to the Red Cross,” he says. “I was involved in a fire and here’s what happened. I want you to feel comfortable asking for first aid classes or earthquake classes or going there and purchasing something.”

For more information on Red Cross Youth Preparedness, visit

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