August 8, 2023
Giving back since day one
From tour guiding at a Swedish museum in Scandia, MN, to being a part of the National Honor Society (NHS) during her high school years, Amy (Schreyer) Leopold ’21 has been volunteering her whole life. After years of service in many capacities, she was honored by the American Red Cross’s Navin Narayan Excellence Award in Youth Leadership award. This award is given to one young volunteer in the nation each year.
The award honors the former American Red Cross National Youth Council chair, who began volunteering with the organization at age 14. He became a national disaster relief volunteer and trainer, an international speaker on human rights and an advocate for youth involvement in the Red Cross. Narayan died of cancer in 2000 at age 23. This award is given to just one volunteer each year out of the nearly 100,000 American Red Cross volunteers under 24. However, given Leopold’s lifelong dedication to service, this couldn’t have been awarded to a more fitting volunteer.
Hospitality goes a long way
Ultimately, a gut instinct and an at-home feeling convinced Leopold to pursue her education at The College of St. Scholastica. Although a Duluth native, Leopold recounted her first time at the Duluth main campus didn’t happen until she began her college search. “I stepped out of the car in the parking lot of [St.] Scholastica after having toured a couple of other colleges. I thought, ‘Oh, I see what people are talking about. This is home. I get it now.’ And I just couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. It was great from the first day, and I just felt welcomed. Anyone we met on our tour didn’t snub their nose at me; instead, they said, ‘I love that you’re touring here. What are you interested in?’ And they showed genuine interest in me as a person.”
While usually determined in her goals, Leopold found herself in a rocky place when choosing her path at the College. “I started out as a nursing major. During week two of my first year, I was sitting in nursing chem and thought, ‘Oh no, this isn’t for me. I already know this isn’t for me.’ Some of my friends were doing exercise physiology, pre-physical therapy, so I jumped on board and totally just threw a dart. I loved every moment of the program. It was a perfect Cinderella shoe fit moment.”
After completing her undergraduate studies at the College, Leopold has chosen to continue as a student in St. Scholastica’s physical therapy program. Although overwhelming at points, Leopold noted, “Okay, I did it. I made it through [year one]. It was good. Time to do it again, because we don’t get summers off.”
Leopold began volunteering for the Northern Chapter Red Cross in her first year at the College, and four and a half years later, she continues to do so. She said her favorite part is that “you can do almost anything to fit into any schedule whatsoever. It’s awesome. Many people think of blood drives when they think of the Red Cross, which is great, but there are so many other things you can do outside of that, especially if you’re not interested in healthcare. The list of things you can do is endless. I love writing thank you letters to our financial donors or Christmas cards for veterans and service members in the winter. Recently we’ve been going out and knocking on some doors and seeing if anyone needs smoke alarms over in Superior. We do that for free.”
Lifelong love of learning
Additionally, through the Red Cross, Leopold has amassed many tools in her belt. “I am trained as a disaster action team member. So if a house event does occur, I can help them figure out what they need. On the other side, I will also spend a few hours in the evening being the dispatcher, which includes coverage of our whole region of North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Douglas County, Wisconsin. If we get a call from anywhere in that region, whatever happens, I look to see who is on the volunteer on-call list that night and place someone in the area. We love our volunteers.”
In case that wasn’t enough, Leopold added, “Oh gosh, you can do just about anything. You can do sheltering – I have my sheltering associate’s title as well – which means that you can set up shelter places if there’s flooding, like what often happens in the Duluth region. I am considering getting my spiritual care title so I can be deployed on the spiritual care response team; that means that if a home fire event happens and they’re interested in some spiritual care counseling, I can go out and talk with them about that.” Although that’s in the future, Leopold mentioned how easy it is to advance learning with the courses through the Red Cross, as her love of learning extends beyond the classroom and into these additional learning opportunities.
Respect for those around her
According to Leopold, receiving this award doesn’t change how she volunteers. “What I’ve told everyone so far is that I feel personally undeserving because I’m really not anyone special without the rest of the team with me. I’m glad I was recognized, but I also point to all these people doing all these other amazing things too.”
In terms of what the future has in store for Leopold, she responded with her usual tenacity: “I know exactly what I want to do. I have known for a long time that I love the clients and crowd I work with now. I love them so much. I was a CNA for a long time because I originally planned to be a nurse, and I did a lot of work at a nursing home. I don’t know how that works, but we get each other. I truly enjoy physical therapy!”
Stewardship is for everyone
In light of her extensive experience giving back to the community, Leopold does urge everyone, regardless of their age, to get out there. “Truly anyone can volunteer regardless of your major or work. There’s something for everyone. I said this before, but someone once told me you always have time for your priorities, and I don’t think there could be a truer statement. If someone says, ‘I just don’t have time to,’ it’s not a priority. Clearly, that doesn’t matter to you, or you would have made time for it. So if something really matters to you, you will make time for it. I think a good way to outline your priorities in life is to notice the things you do make time for versus the things you say, ‘I don’t have time for that. I just don’t have time to,’ whatever it is. The good news is a lot of the things we do are easy to fit into anyone’s schedule at any time. You don’t have to commit to a full half day or anything. It can be a half hour, hour; anything works.”
For those who may be interested in volunteering with the Red Cross, Leopold opens the doors to everyone: “We’re always looking for more volunteers. I don’t think you can ever have too many volunteers. The more, the merrier, especially with covering grounds for disaster action responses, especially up north.”