East Lawrence High School promotes Red Cross at Junior Leadership Development Conference

December 6, 2009

By Evan Duffy

In the Alabama and Central Gulf Coast Region, high school and college students are an extremely important segment of the donor population, providing approximately 21% of annual collections for the region. But one high school group in northwest Alabama has taken the mission of the American Red Cross to heart, not only embracing blood donation but promoting it to their peers on a statewide stage.

On September 29, a contingent of career and technical students from East Lawrence High School in Lawrence County, AL packed into a bus and made the long trek south to Montgomery, where they participated in the Career and Technical Junior Leadership Development Conference, held at the RSA Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Montgomery. Under the leadership of FFA sponsor and American Red Cross blood drive coordinator David DeFoor, the students put together five minute speeches encouraging their peers to not only donate blood, but get involved in organizing blood drives at their respective schools.

The group of East Lawrence students gathered blood donation information from the Red Cross and crafted them into an informational and persuasive speech, calling on their fellow students to give blood, and to sponsor blood drives at their schools if those schools are not currently hosting drives. The students spoke about the importance of blood donation in regards to the health care system, as well as the empowerment students feel when doing something that has as much impact as blood donation. The team of roughly 20 students broke into 3 person teams, with two students giving the speeches and another handing out printed materials to participants in dozens of mini-workshops attended by all 2,600 students participating in the conference.

DeFoor said that while he supported his students once they got things rolling, he was pleasantly surprised that the students originated the idea and were actually able to pull it off. 

“This is just something they wanted to do, so we got things rolling,” said DeFoor at the conference. “The students did everything on this, they were just really determined to complete this project and they did a pretty good job. Most of them even memorized their speeches.”

As part of the project, the students secured an invitation for the American Red Cross to have a booth at the conference to further educate potential student donors and their adult teachers and chaperones about the importance of blood donation. Northwest AL account manager Teresa Becker Bush manned the display to help promote blood donation to those who stopped by the booth, and the region received a number of leads that will likely lead to additional future blood drives at high school around Alabama.

Evan Duffy, Communications Manager for the Alabama and Central Gulf Coast Region, said he was impressed by what the students accomplished during the course of their project.

“Students are such great supporters of our mission as a whole, but it was nice to see that these students embraced our mission and really took it further than we expected,” said Duffy. “I have no doubt that the students from East Lawrence planted seeds in the minds of their fellow students at the conference, and I have no doubt that those seeds will bear fruit for us in the future.”