When Students Become Lifesavers — UNICEF’s Annual Blood Drive

High school is a stage of immense growth and learning for students, evoking dreams about where they will take their knowledge and experiences in the future. But even as high school students work to get their grades up and wonder what the future will hold, some are already making a difference now and showing their passion for helping others.

This is precisely what Edison High School’s gymnasium was able to portray on February 22.

That day, the school’s UNICEF chapter held its annual blood drive, this year hosted by Vitalant, a blood donation center based in Montvale, New Jersey. The process began with the donating students and teachers signing in at a front desk at the entrance of the gym, before filling out forms in regards to their health history. Nurses then checked their blood pressure and made sure they fulfilled the requirements necessary to donate blood. Once they are qualified, they are able to donate blood. There was also a canteen area where food is offered both before and after donating, in order to make sure donors have proper sustenance to safely proceed with their day.

The process of blood donation itself is surprisingly brief, taking approximately a half hour at most, and yet it has the potential to make an immense impact on the lives of others. As Joel Pratts ‘21 commented, “It wasn’t too long and the time they took wasn’t bad. I feel like if they were any quicker it wouldn’t have been enough. I’d do it again.” 

Many students commented that they were initially afraid of blood tests, and therefore donating blood. However, like Pratts, they felt that they would donate again as well. Alexia Stewart ‘21 commented, “It was scary, but they did a good job and it was very quick.”

In the morning, while the assorted selection of snacks were being laid out in the canteen and the Alyx machines were still being set up, Tatiana Franco, one of the Vitalant workers administering the blood donations, shared some details about her work experience.

“I first started working here about a year ago,” she explained. “The job is nice, and you get to travel around and meet new people. Especially when we do blood drives in high school, it shows the importance of donating to younger generations,” Tatiana replied. “They tell friends and other people, and it makes a positive impact.”

Jeff Ochital, the Vitalant donor representative who was overseeing the organization of the blood drive, emphasized the importance of the students’ actions: “The blood goes to local hospitals like JFK Medical Center,” he shared. “Especially during flu season, when there is a lack of blood available, it is important to donate.” 

There were many different types of blood donations that students and teachers were able to choose from to donate, including double-red, plasma, platelets, and whole blood. As a result, the UNICEF and Vitalant collaboration was able to collect 56 units of blood (about 56 pints) from 64 donors. As Jessica Damnaski ‘20, President of Edison High’s UNICEF chapter revealed, “The blood drive is an easy way to help someone in need and can go a long way in helping someone in a serious spot.” If you’re sixteen or older, consider donating blood next year to support this cause, and you can also save a life.