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Monday, March 20, 2023

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San Diego State has partnered with the American Red Cross of San Diego to match graduate students with internships. San Diego State has partnered with the American Red Cross of San Diego to match graduate students with internships.

Two SDSU Students Change Lives Through Internship with the American Red Cross

Two homeland security graduate students have completed internships as duty officers for the American Red Cross of San Diego.
By Lainie Fraser

While we often prepare for wet winter storms and unpredictable summer fire seasons, tragedy can strike at any time. Two San Diego State students are working to ensure that in these times of stress, support is not so hard to come by for San Diegans. 

The SDSU Graduate Program in Homeland Security requires an internship to fully immerse students. Students Terence Leahy and Javier Whyte were matched with open positions at the American Red Cross of San Diego. The partnership allows students to gain real-world experience while giving back to the community.

Leahy and Whyte worked as regional duty officers. When disaster struck they were the ones on the other end of the phone coordinating with emergency response teams, organizing food and blankets and ensuring families would have a place to stay for the night.

“The partnership provides students with experience and the Red Cross with motivated, professional, and qualified individuals who fill this critical and demanding position,” said Dave Maloney, disaster program manager at the American Red Cross of San Diego. 

Leahy, an active duty lieutenant in the United States Coast Guard, chose to complete his internship with the Red Cross because of what the organization does for the community and what his particular role would be.

“The essence of the American Red Cross is similar to the U.S. Coast Guard in that both agencies are humanitarian in nature and truly serve the community every hour of every day,” said Leahy. “Most importantly, you can give back to the community and gain vital experience working with local agencies to make a positive difference.”

“They were the first to receive all requests for Red Cross assistance to disaster victims in our region,” said Maloney. “They would dispatch our on-call response teams, run their response and support them while on-scene of the incident.”

Whyte, an active duty intelligence analyst in the United States Army says he chose the internship with the Red Cross because of what it allowed him to do for San Diego.

“I felt it would be a great opportunity to give back to the San Diego community, my home, which I have been away from recently due to my military service,” said Whyte.

He was on duty the night of December 6, when flash floods swamped three south San Diego communities. Whyte simultaneously dispatched four different Disaster Action Teams that night and opened an evacuation shelter. He worked tirelessly to ensure emergency response teams and victims of the storm were prepared and taken care of. 

“Combined, Leahy and Whyte ran more than one-quarter of our responses last semester,” said Maloney. “Our leadership team, me included, could sleep easy knowing they were on call to run our responses.”

Both Leahy and Whyte have completed their internships but plan to continue working with the Red Cross when they can.

“I will continue to throw my name in the watch rotation because it is a wonderful organization and it is filled with the most self-sacrificing individuals,” said Leahy. “It is a very rewarding endeavor. Even though you may play a small role, that effort has a direct and positive impact on your community.”

“I am prepared to perform any job that the Army needs me to do,” said Whyte. “But I would like to continue my volunteer service with the Red Cross where I go, so I plan to reach out to the local chapters.”