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Red Cord, Gallon Challenge programs taking off at high school

New Richmond junior Amanda Vorwald lays down while giving blood at the high school’s fall blood drive on Nov. 1, while senior, “blood buddy” Elianna Emerson sits by her to keep her company. (Photos by Jordan Willi)1 / 3
New Richmond junior Gabe VanBeek (left) holds a red stress ball while giving blood on Nov. 1, with senior, “blood buddy” Logan Dadez, who is there to keep an eye on VanBeek, during the high school’s fall blood drive in the high school gym. 2 / 3
New Richmond high school students, both blood donors and “blood buddies” sit around the blood drive canteen eating snacks and drinking beverages while the donors regain their strength after giving blood at the high school’s fall blood drive on Friday, Nov. 1. 3 / 3

For a long time, students had been giving their blood during the school’s blood drives without getting much more in return than the knowledge that their blood would be used to save the lives of people who need it.

And, in most cases, that is enough. But after a few years of watching his students go unrecognized for the good they were doing for the community through the Red Cross Blood Drives, high school science teacher and blood drive supervisor, Jeff Albarado, decided that it was time to find a way to give the students credit where credit was due.

“We kind of had a program like this a few years ago with the Red Cross, but I really wanted to find a better way to recognize the students for what they were doing,” Albarado said. “Four years ago, we put an asterisk in the graduation ceremony booklet next to the kids names for those who had given enough blood throughout their high school careers. That seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t seem like it was enough. So, that is when we came up with the Red Cord Program to give the kids a red cord to wear at their graduation.”

The New Richmond High School fall blood drive took place Friday, Nov. 1, in the high school gym.

“I came to this blood drive to help out and feel like I was doing the right thing,” New Richmond junior Amanda Vorwald said. “I give blood to help save lives and know that I’m doing a good thing. I’m not expecting anything in return.”

Any student between the ages of 16 and 19 who donates six times throughout their high school career receives a red cord to wear during their graduation ceremony, as well as being recognized at the senior award banquet at the end of the year. If a student is able to donate a gallon of blood, eight times, before they graduate they will receive a special pin as well as the red cord.

“For the most part, students can just go to the school blood drives to complete the Red Cord Program; however, students looking to finish the Gallon Challenge need to go out into the community and participate in other blood drives to get to eight donations,” Albarado said.

Along with the schools programs, the Red Cross donates $10 for every unit of blood donated at the high school drive toward a scholarship fund for the students. Last year, the school was able to collect more than 150 units of blood which added up to $1,500 for the school’s Red Cross scholarship, which is split up among graduating seniors who are selected by a committee. Albarado hopes they can reach the 200-unit mark this year and earn $2,000 for the scholarship fund.

“We had four students complete the Red Cord Program three years ago, then there were another five two years ago,” Albarado said. “Last year we had 18 kids donate six times, so we are hoping that we can get that number up to 25-30 kids a year who complete the program. It would be cool to see 20-50 students finish every year, but it is still fun to see this program pick up steam after starting out as a little grassroots movement.”

Students who wish to give blood at any school blood drive must submit a signed permission slip from their parents. The school is limited to 100 donors per blood drive, so only the first 100 students signed up for the drive will be guaranteed to give blood at any given drive.

“This is my first time giving this year, but my third time overall,” Vorwald said. “I do plan on trying to get the Red Cord for giving blood. Every time you donate you save three lives with the blood you give. So that is another reason I want to give blood.”

Besides getting the chance to give blood during the drive, students in Albarado’s anatomy class get to help organize the event and look after the students who gave blood during the fall blood drive. Forty of Albarado’s students ran the canteen, were “blood buddies” who keep an eye on the students who are giving blood and also escorted the donors back to their classrooms after they fully recuperated at the fall blood drive.

“I’m really interested in medicine and I want to do something like that in college, so that is why I am taking the class,” student Elianna Emerson said. “Everyone in the class does help out with the blood drive, but I really wanted to help out anyway because I want to do whatever I can to help out. It is pretty easy to donate your time and donate blood.”

The next school blood drive is Feb. 28.

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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