Monday, April 10, 2017

My Red Cross Volunteer Story: Prabhleen Batra, President of the Paint Branch High School Red Cross Club

Written by: Melanie Benson, volunteer

“Seva,” Prabhleen Batra tells me, “means selfless service.”  Prabhleen has practiced Seva, a foundational principle of Sikhism that encourages service without any personal benefit or reward, throughout her life.  She has a long history of volunteerism through community activities with her temple and serving at a local soup kitchen with her mother.  Adhering to this personal passion, it made sense that three years ago as a freshman at Paint Branch High School, MD, Prabhleen immersed herself fully in the school’s Red Cross club.

Today, amid a full schedule of other activities (Model UN, SGA, and honor societies), Prabhleen, now a junior, serves as club president.  What many may not know, however, is that Prabhleen is far more than the club’s leader - she is the reason that the club still exists.  During her sophomore year, Paint Branch’s Red Cross club struggled.  The club lacked direction and faced a bigger challenge when its faculty sponsor stepped down.  Recognizing the value of the club’s work, Prabhleen took action to preserve the Red Cross club.  She found a new sponsor, Ms. Weiss, a Spanish teacher, and rallied to convince her friends to join in club activities.

Today, Prabhleen’s leadership is supported by a vice president, community lead and secretary.  The revamped Red Cross club has 20 regular members who meet twice each month.  The club’s members work together to recommend activities of interest, such as repeated favorites including bake sales, preparing and sharing kit drives and making cards for heroes.  Currently, Paint Branch’s club is working on two larger community events, a blood drive, to be hosted around the beginning of summer, and a Fire Safety Canvassing Day in collaboration with the nearby Burtonsville Fire Department.

Reflecting on the progress the once struggling club has made, Prabhleen points to Ms. Karine Sewell’s visit to the school’s club as an inflection point and an activity that profoundly motivated club members. Ms. Sewell, the Red Cross Executive Director for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, visited the Red Cross members at Paint Branch to share stories of other school clubs and to offer activity ideas and support.  Ms. Sewell’s visit inspired the Paint Branch club with the impact of other clubs in the community and motivated them to add their own positive mark on their neighborhood.

Prabhleen urges other schools in the area to get involved with the Red Cross.  She recognizes that alternatives for community service exist through various honor societies, but highlights that the Red Cross has unique activities that make club diversity valuable.

Next year, Prabhleen will enter her last year at Paint Branch.  While she excitedly explores what will come next, she has already begun to take steps to ensure that the Red Cross club will continue to flourish for other students to enjoy.  Working as a mentor with current freshmen, Prabhleen is certain that the club will continue to do good even after her graduation.  She offers this wisdom to the underclassmen, "If each person does their part and gives a little back to the community, the lives of those less fortunate will be transformed.”

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