The American Red Cross of South Carolina is pleased to announce two students from South Carolina Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been selected to participate in the two-year cohort of the inaugural American Red Cross HBCU Ambassador program. Dwight Priest Jr., a junior at Claflin University studying psychology, and Jauron Pruitt, a sophomore and President of the Student Government Association at Denmark Technical College, have been selected for the prestigious Ambassadorship.
"We're incredibly proud to have two students representing South Carolina in this program and helping us to build and maintain a diverse blood supply," said Shonette Sneed, Regional Donor Services Executive for the American Red Cross of South Carolina. "These bright, young leaders are advancing a life-saving mission and will significantly impact their communities."
The national program is part of the American Red Cross Sickle Cell Initiative, which aims to raise awareness of the inherited blood disorder impacting an estimated 100,000 Americans – the majority of whom are of African descent – and increase donations from blood donors who are Black. Blood donations from individuals of the same race or similar ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients experiencing a sickle cell crisis.
Sickle cell disease is an enduring – and often invisible – health disparity in the U.S. Despite the discovery of the disease more than a century ago, there have been fewer health resources available to help those currently who have sickle cell disease in comparison to similar diseases. That's why the Red Cross sickle cell initiative seeks to raise awareness about this health disparity and increase blood donations from individuals who are Black through community partnerships, such as with HBCUs, which will help ensure blood products are available for patients with sickle cell disease.
"To be nominated for this program is a blessing to me. I didn't know much about sickle cell before participating in the academy, and I learned why we need to help collect as much blood as we can," said Priest Jr. about his experience in the Leadership and Advocacy Academy. "I learned that the Red Cross is really about giving back. When I'm older and starting my career, I want to keep in contact with the people I've met at the Red Cross."
HBCU Ambassadors will receive a $6,000 scholarship award and participate in a two-week Leadership and Advocacy Academy with American Red Cross Biomedical Services leadership. Additionally, student participants demonstrate their leadership skills by organizing blood drives and educating fellow students and their local communities on blood donation and sickle cell disease.
"Claflin University looks forward to participating in the American Red Cross of South Carolina's Sickle Cell Initiative and the HBCU Ambassador Program," said Claflin President Dr. Dwaun J. Warmack. "Our support of this program aligns with the Elevation and Transformation we are experiencing at Claflin. The program is consistent with a fundamental goal of our RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing and our new Master of Science in Nursing programs to improve the quality of health care in South Carolina. We are also very elated that one of Claflin's visionary scholars will have a prominent role in this initiative as an inaugural American Red Cross HBCU Ambassador."
The American Red Cross HBCU Ambassador program is a collegiate leadership and advocacy training program that identifies student leaders to serve as blood program leaders for the HBCU campuses. Participating students will receive a stipend, sales and leadership training, access to potential American Red Cross career opportunities and mentors, and the opportunity to educate their community on the need for diverse blood donors. Twenty-five students were selected for the inaugural cohort in 2022.