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Hempstead High School Sets Example, As Students Come Out In Droves To Donate Blood At Time When It's Needed Most

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Yet another consequence of the pandemic has been school blood drives being cancelled, and that's having a big impact on the nation's supply.

CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff spoke with Hempstead students who brought back a drive on Thursday with high hopes.

Eleventh grader Khan Zidan is a first-time blood donor on a mission.

"I want to help people like my mom and my friends who have had transfusions in the past," Zidan said.

After a pause during the pandemic, the Hempstead High School gym was once again filled with student blood donors. The Key Club offered classmates incentives like Big Macs and community service hours.

But the biggest perk?

"Being able to save people. It makes you feel good after," Key Club member Kayla Harris said.

"We always tell them that even one donation can help save the lives of up to three people," 11th grader Salma Perez said.

Hempstead High School blood drive
(Photo: CBS2)

"It's saving peoples' lives as 1 in 3 people may need a donation once in their lifetime," 11th grader Camila Rojas said.

"To me, blood donations are very personal because a few years ago my cousin, his life was saved because of a blood donation," 12th grader Daniella Marroqion added.

Those 17 and up can donate, but 16-year-olds need parental permission. But donating is so popular at the school, "I have 14- and 15-year-olds that are asking," Key Club advisor Jennifer Salgado said.

They'll have to wait, but the critical message is getting through amid a chronic crisis that has been deepened by school closures, then the Omicron variant, and recent snow storms. The New York Blood Center used to count on schools for 500 drives per year, but fewer than 100 have come back.

"These youth donors are not only important to our blood supply but to our future blood supply. If they have a great experience donating with their friends and classmates and getting out of chemistry class, that's a nice experience that will hopefully make a lifetime of giving," said Andrea Cefarelli, executive director of the New York Blood Center.

The supply is down to only two to three days. A five-to-seven day cushion is needed. The New York Blood Center is urging students to reach out to learn how to follow Hempstead's lead.

"I needed blood when I had surgery because I didn't have enough, so I could say it helped save my life," 11th grader Sid Mohammed said.

"That's just character-building and that's one of the key elements in education, is building good people," Hempstead High Assistant Principal Kristin Kelly said.

It is, perhaps, the simplest way to save a life, and you can make a habit of it. On average, donors can give blood every three months.

Students can contact the New York Blood Center to set up a school blood drive or find out where groups of teens can go to donate blood.

Schools and colleges were donating 75,000 pints of blood per year to the New York Blood Center before the pandemic.

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