Stuyvesant Student Pushes Consanguineous Cooperation
Lower Manhattan resident Yashna Patel has almost singlehandedly resurrected the blood drive program at Stuyvesant High School, which fell by the wayside during the Covid pandemic. Now a senior at Stuyvesant, Ms. Patel recalled, “during my sophomore year, I received emails from the New York Blood Center about the emergency scarcity they were experiencing. So I called to ask about setting up a blood drive here at Stuyvesant. This had not been done for several years, as a precaution during the pandemic.”
“They explained that pandemic had deprived them of one of their primary supply pipelines,” she said, “because universities, along with juniors and seniors in high school, are some of their most prodigious givers.”
She began the complicated process of getting approval from the Stuyvesant administration to relaunch the program. “We had a new principal, Dr. Seung Yu, who had started at the outset of the pandemic. He was definitely interested, but also had understandable concerns about safety,” she said.
After Dr. Yu agreed to explore the possibility further, “we set up a meeting with the New York Blood Center,” Ms. Patel said. “The next issue was outreach to raise awareness among students and staff. Almost no Stuyvesant students had been at the school long enough to remember the last blood drive.”
During her junior year, “we began to get the word out on social media,” she said. “We also used social media groups for Stuyvesant students. All of that was a good start, but we were still not reaching the critical mass we needed.”
Her next step was to ask teachers to publicize the blood drive to their classes. It was important to raise awareness and explain who could give blood, in part because “half the school was not eligible.” (High school freshmen and sophomores are too young to give the legally required consent.)
The first iteration of the new Stuyvesant blood drive took place May 26 of 2022, with a goal of 44 donations. More than 70 students ended up participating. In October of that year, the event was reprised with a more ambitious aim of 68 donations. More than 80 students rolled up their sleeves for that one.
Next came a blood drive in March of this year, for which the goal was dialed back to 44 donations, “because the Blood Center says that March is traditionally a slow month,” Ms. Patel explained. That benchmark was exceed by 24 pints. Another drive was held in May, when 63 donations were collected. The most recent Stuyvesant blood drive fell on October 4, when 50 units were collected.
“Yashna Patel has been totally instrumental in running the blood drive here at Stuyvesant,” said Matt Polazzo, the Stuyvesant Coordinator of Student Affairs. “Our community has over 3,000 members, and trying to get them to take time out of their busy days to donate is a major logistical challenge, but Yashna has handled it with aplomb. Whether it’s communicating with the New York Blood Center, negotiating with the school administration, or wrangling the students, Yashna has been at the center of it all. Over the years, thanks to the drive, thousands of pints of blood and plasma have been donated to people in desperate need—and this is in keeping with the ethos of service that we teach here at Stuyvesant High School.”
Because Ms. Patel will graduate from Stuyvesant next spring and then head to college, she is hoping to deputize current Stuyvesant juniors to continue the program she helped to launch. “I want to systematize this process,” she said, “and create a toolkit for students at other high schools to do the same thing. For now, we are raising awareness by targeting other Manhattan high schools with large student populations. But I hope to spread this throughout the five boroughs by teaching students how to implement this program.”
“That is how politicians get elected and how products get marketed,” Ms. Patel concluded. “This is how to persuade people to take action.”