Yesterday, six fifth graders from Holliman Elementary School did their best to persuade people to donate blood.
“You don’t have to be from Krypton, have super speed or have super strength. All you need is to be 16 and 130 pounds to make a difference,” said Arianna Mimande.
“Real heroes are people who save peoples’ lives, not by fighting crime, but by donating blood,” said Casey Chamberlin.
“Please understand that blood cannot be manufactured,” said Brooke Giglietti. “You can be a hero.”
These three students, along with Giana Amaral, Jamee Salisbury and Daniel McQuade, were winners of the Donating Blood persuasive essay contest. The annual contest, which has occurred for four years, is a partnership between the fifth grade at Holliman and the Rhode Island Blood Center.
Beth-Anne Raffanelli, a fifth grade teacher at Holliman, organizes the contest. She explained that the three fifth grade classes came together, and she taught a lesson on blood donation and persuasive essay writing.
The students then wrote their essays and submitted them to the Rhode Island Blood Center. Blood Center employees read through the essays and selected the six best ones.
The winners were given the opportunity to read their essays out loud for their fellow fifth graders, teachers, Blood Center representatives and family members.
Jeanne Petit, a retired teacher, stopped by to watch the presentation. She created the program almost 10 years ago at Rhodes Elementary School before bringing it to Holliman. A part-time employee of the Blood Center after school at the time, Petit said her supervisors were always impressed with the work her students did and the idea of the essay contest was born.
“We integrated writing, science, health, technology and oral speaking,” said Petit. She says Rafanelli was a partner from the start and has carried it on since Petit’s retirement.
Rhode Island Blood Center Communications Manager Frank Prosnitz said he is “blown away” with what the students deliver each year.
“It’s fun. It’s fun to see the kids,” he said, adding that many students have a personal connection to individuals whose lives have been saved because of blood donation, and they often bring that experience into the essay.
No personal experiences were addressed in this year’s essay, however many of the students referenced the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the tornadoes in Moore, Okla., as reasons to donate.
Before the six winners read their essays and were presented with their awards, the entire fifth grade enjoyed a presentation from the Blood Center, which included the chance to see bags of red blood cells, platelets and plasma up-close. The students were also given the opportunity to test their knowledge of blood donation, answering questions such as how many lives can be saved with one donation (three) and how many pints of blood need to be collected each day (280).
Following their assembly, a blood drive was hosted at Holliman, and even though none of her students can donate blood [donors must be at least 16 years old], Rafanelli said 30 of them would be staying after school to volunteer.
“They’re going to pass out cards we made with lifesavers or pass out snacks,” said Rafanelli. They were also going to watch Rafanelli become a hero and donate blood herself.