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Larchmont Student Raises Awareness with Red Cross

LARCHMONT, N.Y. -- Before Eli Russ can take a breath after coming home from three weeks in Vermont, he will leave Wednesday for a meeting in San Francisco to share his future plans as a member of the American Red Cross National Youth Council.

Russ, a rising junior at Mamaroneck High School, was one of 13 young adult volunteers in the country selected this past June to the National Youth Council, which aims to develop resources for humanitarian aid and increase youth involvement. During the first month of the three years he will serve on the council, the Larchmont resident created a 10-minute presentation on youth involvement in Red Cross disaster services.

"It shows how kids like us can get involved in preparing for and responding to disasters," Russ said. "That presentation is part of the several-hour tour that the National Youth Council gives all over the country."

The council's 13 members are placed in groups and assigned to a certain project, and Russ was assigned to the Red Cross' national awareness tour. The history enthusiast already had some experience promoting awareness as the president of the Mamaroneck High School's American Red Cross club.

In 2008, Russ attended the first meeting of the Larchmont Mamaroneck Community Emergency Response Team. One month later, he found out his high school had a Red Cross club and decided to join.

"I joined and became one of the more active members of a very small club," said Russ, who quickly rose through the ranks to become president. "When I get involved in something, I really get into it. That's probably why I've gone so far in the Red Cross in not such a long time."

After Russ became vice president in January 2010, the American Red Cross club raised $8,000 for the earthquake in Haiti by holding a bake sale and screening "The Road to Fondwa," which is about a little village in Haiti and their struggles to succeed in the developing country. The club has also responded to two disasters, in which they helped set up shelters for families displaced by apartment fires.

"I see myself continuing my work with the club, the council and hopefully continue doing good work, trying to make a difference and save lives," Russ said. "My life revolves around emergency services and, interestingly enough, religious duties."

After college, Russ plans to move to Israel, which he says will be the conclusion to a "long story" that began with anti-semitic remarks made by classmates while he was in Hommocks.

"That made me explore Judaism," he said. "I'd been exposed to it with my family, but that kind of flipped the switch in my mind. I plan, after graduating college, to move to Israel and to start my life and my family there. It's going to be challenging, especially in the first couple of years, but the reward is much greater than any of the challenges I may face."

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