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Coatimundi Middle School Excels

Arizona Blood Services Region

May 2, 2011

The National Junior Honor Society at Coatimundi Middle School makes a difference in their community and excels as a blood drive sponsor.

Teacher Rebecca Walker in center.  Students on left:  Daniel Quijada, Hope Noriega, Zachery Baxter, Arianna Cruz.  Students on right:  Stephanie Brennan, Hannah Barden. 

It will be a few years before any of these kids are old enough to give blood themselves, but they can recite blood facts, recruit donors and run blood drives as well as, if not better than, some adults. They are a model of how a dedicated group of young people are making a life-saving difference in their community. 

Student members of the National Junior Honor Society at Coatimundi Middle School in Rio Rico have collected 118 units of blood in three NJHS-sponsored blood drives this year. They have already surpassed their goal of 115 units with one more blood drive yet to go.    

The blood drives started at Coatimundi in January 2009 as a community service project of the NJHS. Teacher and NJHS sponsor Rebecca Walker has been there from the beginning, helping to guide the students. 

NJHS students said they could have chosen a community service project such as collecting roadside litter, but they wanted to do something more than that.  hey liked the idea of saving lives and have been sponsoring blood drives for the past three school years.    

Seventh-grader Hope Noriega said, “It’s fun to see everybody give blood and knowing that it helps people. I just like being a part of it.” 

Walker emphasized that the drives are not teacher-run; it’s the students who are doing the work. They met regularly during the year with Red Cross Donor Recruitment Supervisor Christina Rowden to plan their drives and to get some tips on what makes a successful blood drive.

Students agreed to host four blood drives during the school year, and formed a committee. They learned some basic facts about blood donations, such as eligibility requirements, and how to organize and run a blood drive.  

Principal John Fanning, a blood donor and supporter of the school drives, said, “What a great thing they’re doing to make the community a better place. This is the signature event for the students.”   

The drives are open to the community, and have attracted donors from as far as 30 miles away. About 25 percent of the donors are school staff, while 75 percent are members of the community.

Walker explains that each student may sign up only one staff member from the school, and is then required to recruit donors from the community. 

Eighth-grader Hannah Barden said, “If you have a committee and support staff, you can do a blood drive, and it’s something you should do.” 

“The biggest challenge is getting people to sign up for the drives and to keep their appointments,” said eighth-grader Geneive Alcantara. 

According to Stephanie Brennan, another eighth grader, “Parent/teacher conferences are a good place to get people to sign up.” As is the kitchen table at home with mom, dad and the grandparents. Speaking in front of civic groups also has netted them some donors from the community.     

The most frequent objection to donating is fear of needles, according to the students.   

Barden said she tells those who are afraid of donating “that you can be scared for a tiny bit (during the needle stick) and save lives with your donation or you can just be scared and do nothing.” 

With successful drives already under their belts, students chose in February to participate in Recovery 2011, a national Red Cross program to rebuild the nation’s blood supply after severe winter weather caused the cancellation of many blood drives across the U.S. 

Participating blood drive sponsors were asked to exceed their collection goal by 10 percent. The Coatimundi students were one of only ten sponsor groups in Arizona to successfully do so during the campaign period. 

“The NJHS students who have worked on the blood drives at Coatimundi have really blown me away with their commitment and dedication,” said Rowden.  “They are fully invested in the success of the blood drives, and have created a program that is both meaningful to them and helpful to the community.  I could not be prouder,” she said.