Twenty-two people die every day waiting for a transplant. And every 10 minutes, another person is added to the waiting list.
These organ donation statistics were the themes in the inaugural Got the Dot Leadership Program, a collaboration between Centennial High School’s Interact Club and JJ’s Legacy.
The mission: create organ, eye and tissue awareness among high school students before they get their license.
Li Gibbs, the club adviser, said 38 students participated in the program out of nearly 80 club members.
Students met every Thursday for six weeks and graduated on Feb. 23, where their final video project was judged by a panel.
Throughout the six-week program, club members met transplant recipients and donors, including a former CHS student who lived because of organ donation.
Interact Club President Katy Carrillo, 17, said hearing from guest speakers really made an impact in the importance of saying “yes” to the pink dot on a driver’s license.
“If your organs can help someone, why not donate them?” Carrillo said. “Organ donation gives people a second chance at life.”
A chance at life was a significant theme in the 10, two- to three-minute videos students created and presented for the first time to their peers and parents.
Statements like, “It’s a tough decision but here’s why you should become a donor,” and, “One donor can save eight lives,” were told in different ways throughout the entertaining, yet informational videos.
One team even had a pretend heart surgery transplant clip that created a few laughs among the audience.
The first-place video “A New Life,” created by Azriella Del Rosario and Elmae Fredrick, told the story of a young girl who had a car accident and died. But because she was an organ donor, her organs saved the lives of many others. At the end of the video, a real-life kidney transplant recipient talked about her second chance at life.
Although the two winners weren’t present at the event due to prior commitments, they were ecstatic when they received the news via phone.
“We can’t believe this,” both girls said in unison over the phone.
There were a few more excited screams and bursts of jitters before Del Rosario said the two had worked long hours to create a compelling video that showed the importance of organ donation.
The winning team received a $500 scholarship and the second-place team took home $250 each.
As JJ’s Legacy founder Lori Malkin looked on to a crowd of students and parents at the end of the night, there was a sparkle in her eye that was undeniable.
“It warms my heart that these kids took so much pride in the project,” Malkin said. “Because they learned about this so young, it will make a huge impact in their life.”
Although Malkin doesn’t quite know where the program will go, the advisory team is inspired to have the program available in other high schools.
And for graduating senior Carrillo, having more teens learn about organ, eye and tissue donation, would be life-changing like it was for her.
“This was an amazing opportunity to partner with JJ’s Legacy,” she said. “It gave us the opportunity to be leaders and become a spokesperson for a cause that saves lives.”