Gift of Life Michigan is making a bold investment in its popular and successful All of Us high school curriculum so even more students can learn about organ, tissue and eye donation.
Community outreach coordinators began talking with teens in 2018 at high schools in and around Grand Rapids. All of Us then expanded to Flint and Detroit. Since its inception, the program – welcomed by teachers and students alike – has experienced a flurry of success.
All of Us even earned a coveted Pinnacle Award in 2021 (Best Multicultural Outreach) from the national donation advocacy group Donate Life America.
Last year, coordinators taught students in roughly 100 schools about the fundamentals of organ, eye and tissue donation – as well as transplantation. That’s about to ramp up significantly, said Patrick Wells-O’Brien, Vice President of Communications and External Relations at Gift of Life Michigan.
“Teaching future generations about donation is an investment Gift of Life Michigan is making in a new and big way,” he said. “With this ambitious expansion, we hope to be in all 1,800 Michigan high schools every three years.”
The curriculum supplements high school anatomy, biology, health and other courses in grades 9-12. Coordinators are often accompanied by transplant recipients, who talk about the organs they received and the health conditions they were experiencing before their transplants.
After participating in the class and talking with their families, students should feel equipped to decide about joining the Donor Registry when they apply for their driver’s permit, license or state ID. Residents as young as 16 can sign up but their parent(s) or guardian have the final say for anyone younger than 18, if something should happen.
“We provide them with accurate information so they can feel empowered to make the best decision for themselves,” said Shalonda Griffin, Community Relations Coordinator in the Flint region. “We don’t sign them up. Some already are, though, and they’re super proud to show us their driver’s license.”
Teachers say it’s a logical and interesting addition to their lesson plans.
“The presentation is so powerful. It is a great way to learn about advocating,” said Courtney Mayner, a health teacher at Linden High School south of Flint. “I also love that Gift of Life Michigan provides information as students are all soon going to be getting driver’s licenses.”
Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana all require education about organ and tissue donation as part of their high school curriculum. Gift of Life Michigan is working toward a similar requirement in this state.
“If we can get our staff and this program in every Michigan high school, we know it will save lives,” added Patrick Wells-O’Brien.
For more information, or to schedule a presentation, please contact Taneisha Campbell, Alison Gillum, or Shalonda Griffin or visit the All of Us page on the Gift of Life Michigan website.
To contribute to the Gift of Life Foundation click here.