Iowa City Teen Builds a Bright Future for His Community and Himself
Updated: Sep 23
By Ashley Peterson-DeLuca
“You can do more good in your community if you start as a teenager than if you start later at a later age,” says Andrew Dong, a 15-year-old volunteer with the Nebraska-Iowa American Red Cross.
He has wasted no time making an impact. He has spent more than 300 hours volunteering at a local retirement home, visiting with the residents and teaching fitness classes. He also volunteers with the Iowa City VA Hospital and as an EMT, performing ambulance ride-alongs to emergencies.
“I have always been someone who wants to interact with people, rather than sitting at my desk. I want to have an impact on others. Volunteering is one way to do that,” says Dong.
After reaching out to Pami Erickson, Executive Director for the Eastern Iowa Red Cross chapter, Dong became a Red Cross Youth Field Ambassador as a freshman in high school. He quickly got his fellow students involved too. He founded the Red Cross Club at Iowa City West High, which has grown to 60 members.
“The secret to getting students involved is appealing to what they value in their life. There are plenty of people who want to do good in society,” says Dong. This February, he and the club members helped install smoke alarms as part of the Sound the Alarm program. They visited apartment buildings in Iowa City to knock on doors, offering to install the free smoke alarm and share how it can save lives. He’s also helped other students become volunteers at the VA Hospital, registering 21 students.
Now, the Red Cross Club is organizing a blood drive at their high school for April 2022.
“There’s a national shortage of blood right now. You can give blood if you’re 16. With this campaign, we can increase the number of people who can donate,” says Dong. “I think students’ main concern is safety. So I answer all their questions about COVID and how all the people who work at the drives are medical professionals.”
Dong is on a mission to keep doing good in his community. He’s already starting to organize a food drive and a toy drive for patients at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital for Christmas.
When he’s not volunteering, Dong is part of the debate team, which won state this year. He is also starting a new research position at the University of Iowa to study diabetes and its effects.
“I love learning. I’m a curious person. I strive to learn as much as I can about every subject. Once I find something I’m interested in, I try to gain as much knowledge as I can,” he says.
Although his plans after graduating high school aren’t set in stone, Dong says: “I have demonstrated an interest in science, and I hope to possibly be a medical professional.”
To learn how you can help make a difference in your community, let us know you’re interested in becoming a Red Cross volunteer.