By Winter Harris and Jenna Schrader
DeSoto native Briana Adeoye, a junior at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, joins 38 other students across the nation as part of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Ambassador program with the American Red Cross. The Red Cross recently announced its newest HBCU Ambassadors, who will serve as liaisons for their communities during their two-year terms.
A long-time Red Cross supporter, Adeoye knew that she wanted to be involved in the program when it was announced at her college. The Red Cross HBCU Ambassador Program, sponsored by Delta Airlines, empowers college students to improve the health outcomes of diverse populations needing blood transfusions through training, mentoring and networking opportunities.
The ambassadors also work closely with their local blood services team and student organizations to help coordinate one blood drive per semester on their college campuses, something Adeoye already has experience doing. While in high school, she hosted multiple blood drives to raise awareness of sickle cell disease, something she is passionate about.
“Sickle cell disease affects so many people and it is so important to spread awareness about the disease,” Adeoye said.
In the U.S., it is estimated that over 100,000 people have sickle cell disease and may require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lifetime — as many as 100 units of blood per patient each year. About one in 13 babies of African descent in the U.S. is born with sickle cell trait, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For patients with sickle cell disease, blood donors who are Black are almost three times more likely to be a match for the blood most commonly needed than donors who are not. While it does not typically matter the race of the donors and the recipient if their blood types are compatible, individuals who are Black have some unique structures on their red blood cells that can make it challenging to find a compatible unit of blood in other donor populations.
“I am really excited to advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves,” Adeoye explained. “The American Red Cross does so much for the community, and I am thrilled to be a part of that. I want to encourage people to donate and give back to the organization that is involved and cares about the community.”
Adeoye is ready to contribute positively to her college community and the organization. Her first blood drive was held Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, and exceeded its goal with 35 units collected, including 18 from Black donors.
“I am proud to see Briana advocating and hosting blood drives at Jarvis Christian,” said Brian Moeschler, North Texas Regional Donor Services Director. “Every drive puts needed blood on the shelves for people in great need. Drives at HBCUs help to encourage a lifetime of giving by students, which is even more important within the Black community where matching blood for patients with sickle cell is difficult.”
By educating peers on blood donations’ importance, benefits, and impact, student leaders like Briana help increase and encourage other college students’ involvement in the cause and diversify blood donations.
If you or someone you know is interested in impacting your community through the HBCU Ambassador program, visit our website here.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.