Youth Preparedness Council
About FEMA's Youth Preparedness Council
FEMA’s Youth Preparedness Council was formed last year to bring together youth leaders from across the country that are highly interested and engaged in advocating youth preparedness and making a difference in their communities. The Council supports FEMA’s commitment to involving youth in preparedness-related activities, and provides an avenue to engage youth population, taking into account their perspectives, feedback and opinions. Council members will attend a Youth Preparedness Council Summit on youth disaster preparedness and will also complete a Council project with FEMA support.
In its second year, interest in the Youth Preparedness Council has increased based on the number of applications received this year for the five seats available. The five newest members of the Council from across the country have been selected based on their dedication to public service, efforts in making a difference in their community, and their potential to expand their impact as a national advocate for youth preparedness.
The distinguished members selected in 2013 are as follows:
- FEMA Region II: Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide (New York)
- FEMA Region III: Alex Pasculle (Pennsylvania)
- FEMA Region IV: Louyankkah Justilien (Florida)
- FEMA Region V: Daniel Wernsman (Wisconsin)
- FEMA Region VII: Emily Rosenblum (Missouri)
The returning Council members are as follows:
- FEMA Region I: Rachel Little (Massachusetts)
- FEMA Region II: Gabriela Rodriguez Boria (Puerto Rico)
- FEMA Region V: Jason Reed (Indiana)
- FEMA Region VI: Jonathan DeLong (Texas)
- FEMA Region VII: Nimansha Jain (Nebraska)
- FEMA Region VIII: Ashley Houston (Utah)
- FEMA Region IX: Divya Saini (California)
- FEMA Region IX: Tiffany Espensen (California)
- FEMA Region IX: Christian Chowen (Hawaii)
- FEMA Region X: Cayman Kirkhart (Idaho)
Download the 2013 Youth Preparedness Council Press Release (5-page PDF; 299KB)
2013 Youth Preparedness Council Member Biographies
Jason Reed - Jeffersonville, IN (Region V)
Jason is the cadet commander for his Civil Air Patrol squadron and is actively involved in his squadron’s emergency services programs, serving for several years as a search-and-rescue ground team member. He was a first responder for the devastating tornadoes that struck Henryville, IN, in March 2012, working alongside the local EMA departments, FEMA, and many other state and federal agencies. He conducted health and wellness checks in the community, created perimeters around damaged areas and distributed supplies to those affected by the storm. He received state-level recognition for his efforts following this disaster.
Rachel Little - Monson, MA (Region I)
Rachel is a freshman honor student who is involved in the Massachusetts Governor’s Council as a youth advisor. As part of this group, she participated in Project 351 for the September 11 Day of Service, traveling to Boston to meet with other youth and to participate in several community service projects. Also through the Governor’s Council, she participated in Cradles to Crayons, a group in the Boston area that collects clothing and items for children in need. Rachel works with the Street Angels, helping and caring for tornado survivors and has participated in Care Kits for Troops and Step-Up Day, a mentoring program on youth experience.
Gabriela Rodriguez Boria - Juncos, PR (Region II)
Gabriela is a volunteer for her local American Red Cross where she helps organize fire and tsunami drills and collects food and donations for Haiti refugees. She is a member of the juvenile pastoral group at her church and collects canned foods for a local homeless dining center. She is also an active volunteer with the American Heart Association and participates in physical activities that prevent heart illness.
Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide - Roslyn, NY (Region II)
At the age of 12, Sophie Friedfeld-Gebaide traveled with her family to Cedar Rapids to help with Mississippi flooding relief efforts. At such a young age, Sophie was already being recognized by All Hands, a volunteer organization, for her responsibility and volunteering abilities. After Hurricane Sandy, Sophie and a few of her peers organized several fundraisers that raised more than $38,000 for All Hands disaster relief funds. She also donated a percentage of her Bat Mitzvah gifts to All Hands. Sophie has been involved in organizing food and clothing drives for local shelters and has created a Facebook group to organize All Hands volunteers.
Alex Pasculle - Delmont, PA (Region III)
Alex Pasculle, named “Volunteer of the Year” by IN Community magazine, has been actively involved in emergency preparedness since 2010. Alex volunteers as a firefighter, Basic Life Support (BLS) instructor and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). He uses his CPR and first aid skills as an American Red Cross volunteer. Alex is also involved in disaster relief, helping organize a fundraiser with Kids Helping Kids to raise money for the Japanese tsunami victims.
Louyankkah Justilien - Margate, FL (Region IV)
Louyankkah Justilien is an active participant in national conferences, workshops and community projects. Louyankkah was a voting delegate at a recent NAACP National Convention in Texas and takes on various leadership roles in school activities. As a trained and certified CERT member, she attends local disaster exercises, participates in CERT community outreach and continues to learn about preparedness through online FEMA and Citizen Corps trainings.
Daniel Wernsman - Milwaukee, WI (Region V)
Daniel Wernsman’s connection to youth preparedness stems from his involvement in the Responding to Emergencies and Disasters with Youth (R.E.A.D.Y.) club since 2009. Daniel has taken responsibility for several R.E.A.D.Y. initiatives, including a project that teaches CPR to individuals and local schools. Daniel participated in the Homeland Security’s Faith Based Conference “Creating a Culture of Preparedness Amongst Youth,” gave a presentation on first aid and triage to middle school students and led an effort to collect personal items for a local homeless shelter.
Jonathan DeLong - Austin, TX (Region VI)
At age 8, Jonathan began volunteering weekly with a local animal rescue group. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, he helped gather supplies for rescued animals and donated his own toys for kids who needed to stay in the shelters. Following these experiences, Jonathan attended the City of Austin CERT training, obtained his ham radio license and assisted in the communications room at Austin’s Emergency Operations Center during Hurricane Gustav. Last summer, Jonathan was one of 28 youth in Texas nominated to attend a leadership training camp for Teen CERT. Jonathan recently approached his high school principal to establish a Teen CERT program.
Emily Rosenblum - Wentzville, MO (Region VII)
Emily Rosenblum’s passion and dedication to emergency preparedness is demonstrated through her involvement with CERT and other community groups. As a Teen CERT instructor assistant, Emily participates in numerous countrywide disaster exercises, is an active Teen CERT spokesperson and continues to advocate disaster preparedness at her high school. Emily always considers those with learning disabilities and access and functional needs when making decisions during disaster response exercises. She has also volunteered hundreds of hours to helping the Boy Scouts of America with merit badges and award requirements, in addition to the Sam “Ready I Am” program that educates youth about natural disaster hazards.
Nimansha Jain - Omaha, NE (Region VII)
Nimansha is a member of the Ralston Fire Explorer’s Unit, which provides training for fire and medical emergency preparedness and is certified in CPR. She has been elected to the University of Nebraska Medical Center Student Advisory Group, which works with high school students to promote public health and preparedness messages through monthly community sessions to almost 100 teens. Because some teens could not attend every session, Nimansha started to use social media to help share information from the sessions and get the word out on various volunteer opportunities for youth.
Ashley Houston - Hurricane, UT (Region VIII)
Ashley is an outstanding student and, as a member of the Health Occupation Students of America program, has completed the Teen Student Emergency Response Training at her high school. She worked with her family to put together 82-hour packs for all of the members of her household and to create an escape plan in case of fire, flood or other disaster. Currently, she is working with a neighborhood response team where people would be assigned to identify problems and check on neighbors in the event of a disaster.
Divya Saini - Palo Alto, CA (Region IX)
Divya participates in the Block Preparedness Coordinator Program and volunteers at local neighborhood emergency preparedness events to encourage preparedness and teach individuals what they should do before, during and after an event. She has developed a Facebook site for emergency preparedness and she is the founder of Movers and Shakers, a teen club designed to keep Palo Alto resilient and to form a stronger bond between adults and teens through earthquake preparedness. Divya was recently recognized with a grant from the Palo Alto School Board to further her efforts in helping teens and others getprepared.
Tiffany Espensen - Burbank, CA (Region IX)
Tiffany is a 13-year-old Teen CERT graduate from one of the first classes held by the Julian/Cuyamaca CERT Organization. She has been active in the Teen CERT program, participating in numerous drills and classes, helping teach skills to other youth and promoting CERT in interviews. She currently stars on Nickelodeon’s “Bucket and Skinner” show. She has more than 11,000 Twitter followers and almost 1,000 Facebook likes on her fan page, helping her spread the word through social media. Tiffany will be starting high school and has a black belt in Wushu Chinese martial arts.
Christian Chowen - Laie, HI (Region IX)
Christian has participated in two community evacuations in Hawaii because of tsunami warnings. After discovering that the family’s go-packs were insufficient, he updated the family’s packs and kits. Christian is a trainer for Hawaii’s “Feeling Safe, Being Safe” program, working with individuals with disabilities to prepare for emergencies. As a trainer, he helps people to build an emergency backpack and explains why each item is important. He is considering combining his “Feeling Safe, Being Safe” work with the needs of his local high school, which has a significant population of students with disabilities. Christian is a Life Scout who has completed the Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge.
Cayman Kirkhart - Hayden, ID (Region X)
For his Eagle Scout leadership project, Cayman designed, planned, organized and publicized “Be Prepared Day,” a community-wide disaster preparedness event that featured a series of classes and demonstrations to educate families about disaster preparedness. This four-hour event required nearly eight months of planning and coordination with personnel from 13 organizations, including: local fire, rescue and police units; the American Red Cross; the National Guard; the Coast Guard Auxiliary; the Health Department; and the Office of Emergency Management. “Be Prepared Day” was featured in the March issue of Boy’s Life.