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California Teachers Connect Students to Lifesaving Mission

The communities of Wheatland and Marysville in northern California are about 10 miles apart, but their local high schools are united by two dedicated blood drive coordinators who have seen how blood donation can connect students, help patients and build community—especially during a pandemic.

High schools 'stay the course'—collect more than 100 donations so far

Angelia Harris and Ryan Wallace both teach leadership at Wheatland Union and Marysville high schools, respectively. Like many teachers over the past year, their educational routines have been impacted by COVID-19—shifting from hybrid learning, to distance learning and back again. But their school tradition of hosting blood drives, stretching back decades, helps bring a sense of normalcy and purpose to campus life. It also provides students a safe way to socialize while doing good for others. Seeing an opportunity to help students and patients, Angelia and Ryan stayed the course and committed to maintaining their 2020-2021 school blood drives. So far, the schools have successfully collected over 100 blood donations and their May blood drives are on the horizon.

Robin Carter, Vitalant’s donor recruitment representative who works with both schools, can attest to their strong commitment to our lifesaving cause. In spring 2020, Principal Cy Olsen at Wheatland Union High School offered the school’s parking lot and football field restrooms to Vitalant for a community blood drive when schools were shut down. In October, Angelia and Principal Olsen again agreed to use their site for a school and community blood drive—even though no students were on campus. When Ryan heard from Angelia about this, he worked with Principal Shevaun Mathews to allow Marysville High School to host their blood drives even while students were in distance learning.

Leadership teachers teach and lead by example

“I could not be more proud to be a blood drive coordinator, especially during the pandemic,” said Ryan, a first-year blood drive coordinator. “I realize the need for lifesaving blood does not go away, and now more than ever is the best time to give. I know this on a personal level because of an uncle who recently needed an emergency blood transfusion. Vitalant is clean, safe and efficient when it comes to providing the staff and equipment needed for a successful blood drive."

“It has been such an honor getting to work with Robin and the Vitalant team to organize blood drives for Wheatland Union High School during this pandemic,” said Angelia. “We are so grateful for their time and all of our community members who have stopped by to donate. We couldn’t do this process without working as a team, and I am forever grateful to be a part of this process. Thank you for bringing this opportunity to our community!”

Thank you, Ryan and Angelia—along with Marysville and Wheatland Union high schools, students and faculty—for being outstanding examples of the importance of community service. Your dedication to hosting blood drives serves as an inspiration for other schools, businesses and organizations to do the same.

Article published for the Vital Connections newsletter.