Congratulations, Brenham High School! The school received the Award of Merit in the category of School of the Year from the AABB, an international blood banking organization. The Blood Center presented the award Monday evening at the Brenham ISD Board of Trustees meeting.
To give you an idea of all the great things Brenham High School does to promote saving lives, here’s a copy of the nomination The Blood Center submitted for this award.
Guided by outstanding leaders and embraced by a supportive community, Brenham High School sets the gold standard not just for high school groups, but for all Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center groups that aim to help save lives by hosting blood drives.
The school celebrated 30 years of successful blood drives with a special drive on Nov. 25, 2008. For this occasion, they wanted to break a recently set record and collect more than 500 units. Using the theme “Exceed the Need” and The Blood Center’s Power of Life high school blood drive tools, the school’s blood drive chairperson, co-op teacher Joe Antkowiak, vowed to shave off all his hair if the students hit their goal.
He kept that promise, as they beat their goal with flying colors – collecting a total of 572 units from 483 donors, thanks to automation technology that brought in 74 double red cell donations and 15 red blood cell-plasma donations, in addition to 394 whole blood donations. It was Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center’s largest blood drive that was not related to Sept. 11 or a world-record attempt.
Engaging the community
Brenham’s blood drive program succeeds because of the sheer amount of work put forth by the students and chairpersons Joe Antkowiak and shop teacher Mark Thiel, with ample support from the administrators. Students in the Co-op Program sponsor the drive, enhancing Power of Life educational materials and tools with their own strategies, visiting classrooms to spread the word and conducting blood drive trivia during the morning announcements.
Brenham High School invites the whole community to participate in their blood drive, with the blood drive committee visiting area businesses and nearby schools to collect in-kind donations and conduct sign-ups. The local radio station and newspaper are supportive, running PSAs and news items to promote the drive. In 2008, about one-third of all blood donations given in the city of Brenham were made at Brenham High School’s drives.
Businesses display fliers and offer either food or monetary donations so the students and Blood Center staff can enjoy breakfast and lunch during the drive. From Blue Bell Ice Cream (headquartered in Brenham) to HEB, Walmart and the local Coca-Cola distributorship, Brenham businesses band together to make the blood drive a special event for the whole community.
Making it a special event
On the day of the drive, students arrive as early as 4 a.m. to begin cooking breakfast for the staff and blood donors. While much of the food is donated, students also run a concession stand at athletic events to raise money for many more items.
School administration allows the blood drive to have use of several classrooms, displacing multiple classes for the day so more lives can be saved. The drive runs until 6 p.m., so individuals who work during the day but want to donate may do so after work.
Overall impact on the region
Brenham High School conducts three blood drives a year, averaging 338 donations per drive in 2008. From 1998 to 2008, their annual collections have increased a whopping 382 percent, and they have been our top-collecting high school for five of the past six years. Their donation total just since 1998 has been almost 7,000 donations.
They are regular participants in The Blood Center’s annual “Real World” blood drive workshop – driving from more than two hours away to attend the educational program, which teaches students how to conduct successful drives and how their blood drives have an impact on saving lives. Clearly, their commitment to the program has been effective.
The blood drive is a perfect fit for the students in the Co-op Program, who are learning skills like marketing, promoting and presenting to enter to the work world, and preparing for the blood drives gives them hands-on experience.
By going to the lengths they do to make blood drives such big events, Antkowiak and Thiel are helping the students understand how important it is to donate blood, and creating a donor base that will continue donating blood into their adulthoods.