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Teenagers trying to recover lead as blood donors

Written by on Friday, October 27, 2023

Sixty-five Sarasota High students participated in the SunCoast blood drive.

By Emy McGuire

Original Air Date: Oct. 27, 2023

Host: Ever had surgery that required blood transfusion? A terrible accident? Without teenage donors, you might not have survived. WSLR reporter Emy McGuire accompanied a SunCoast Blood Centers drive to a local high school.

Emy McGuire: SunCoast – a community-focused blood center that is “Dracula approved” – held one of their blood drives yesterday at Sarasota High School. Four full-size, air-conditioned buses with medical staff and equipment pulled up to the high school when it was still dark Thursday morning.

Joan Leonard, SunCoast’s community liaison, explained that high school students once made up 20% of Sarasota blood donations.

Joan Leonard: When COVID hit, and we couldn’t go on to high school campuses, we couldn’t educate the kids on blood donation, and they didn’t see how awesome their campus looked with four buses lined up for collection. We missed a whole group of students. So we’re just getting back in the groove, and today is going to be one of those groovy things, because I think we’ll probably get 60 units from the students here at Sarasota High.

EM: The 20% from before pandemic times has dropped now to 3%, leaving a dangerous gap in blood donations that people like Joan are hoping to fill. SunCoast takes donations from 14 high schools in the area. Two or three days before each drive, SunCoast workers come to campus, to the cafeteria, and go table to table educating students about giving blood and encouraging those who are not yet 18 to get parent permission slips if they are interested. Leonard explained that when people are educated about giving blood and they start donating as teenagers, they are more likely to continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

Sixty-five Sarasota High students participated in the blood drive. Leonard commented on these student’s enthusiasm, respect, and turnout.

JL: Today is a little unusual. I think we’re seeing equal male versus female. A lot of the times in high school, it seems like we’re seeing more females, who come to donate, who are fearless but we a lot of males today which is great, which is great.

EM: Seniors in high school are especially encouraged to donate. That’s because if they give blood twice during their senior year, they will receive a red chord for their graduation robes. SunCoast also offers a scholarship program. Any student that volunteers for at least 30 hours or has donated blood three times during their time at school can apply for this program. One scholarship winner from years ago, Jesus Linares, went on to attend Florida State University, take the Medical College Admissions Test, and was on one of the buses working for SunCoast as a phlebotomist. Jesus was too modest to go into depth about his accomplishments, but he did express how incredible it was to work with high school students.

Photo Credit: Emy McGuire

One of these students, Trinity, spoke to me about her reason for donating.

Trinity: You’re just giving something to someone who probably needs it more than you do.

EM: Why’d you do it?

T: I like to give, no matter what, pretty much, it doesn’t matter to me and If I’m helping someone. I try to help one person a day or make someone laugh a day. Doesn’t matter who, doesn’t matter when – just one person a day. And if I can help someone with my blood, I will help someone with my blood. 

EM: SunCoast will be at Ringling College and New College this next week on Oct. 31 and Nov. 3rd, respectively.

Reporting for WSLR News, this has been Emy McGuire.


WSLR News aims to keep the local community informed with our 1/2 hour local news show, quarterly newspaper and social media feeds. The local news broadcast airs on Wednesdays and Fridays at 6pm.