Rhode Island Blood Center account manager Glenn Halvarson stopped by the Johnston School Committee meeting last month with a certificate to honor the high school’s blood drive efforts, but he brought more than just a piece of paper in a frame.
Halvarson offered heartfelt words to students Nicholas Petrillo, Caleb Lee and Carlos Fragoso – with whom he works closely for blood drives – and the rest of their Johnston cohorts, saying he has “never seen a high school consistently perform at this level.”
Halvarson spoke at length about Johnston’s year-round efforts, telling the board that Johnston placed second across the state in donations from high schools. He said North Kingstown High School edged the Panthers for the top spot on the podium. However, as Principal Dennis Morrell was quick to point out from the audience, North Kingstown sports twice the student population that Johnston does – putting Johnston’s feat into perspective.
“I’ve watched the culture of other high schools. They’ll do phenomenally well and be amongst the top five or 10 or 15 high schools, but then that gets short-lived and next thing you know they’re kind of away and you’re not hearing, you’re not seeing this results like you used to,” Halvarson said. “But one of the things that I’ve seen when I’ve been covering other parts of the state, is Johnston High School is a constant at the top of this leaderboard.”
The praise kept coming for JHS, too, as Halvarson said the National Honor Society hosts one of the only high school summer blood drives. He said their latest effort brought about 112 donations, which was the single largest blood drive in the state for the summer.
“The National Honor Society does a phenomenal job,” Halvarson said. “I also want to thank Carlos and Caleb and Nick – these three students pretty much work with me hand in hand, as a matter of fact I’m in touch with them over the summer for how we’re going to plan the summer drive because they’re a part of the National Honor Society and so forth. I just want to say thank you.”
He also thanked Morrell, but set aside a moment to acknowledge advisor Greg Russo, who “has been the constant” through Halvarson’s years in the region.
“That’s why I keep going back when I was in the territory and I’m watching Johnston High School stay at the leaderboard, there’s been one constant during all these years and that’s Mr. Russo,” Halvarson said. “He has a way of motivating these kids, these students in getting them to not only work on the blood drive but getting students motivated to want to give.”
Halvarson said that 20 percent of the state’s blood supply comes from high schools and colleges, which makes the winter and summer breaks particularly difficult times.
“We’re coming into the schools, asking them for their time from the principals and the teachers and whatnot, to allow us to be here. We rely on that,” Halvarson said. “So you can imagine that after [winter break] – high schools are closed, colleges are closed – we’re already 20 percent behind the 8-ball for a safe and adequate blood supply. Now we do our best to prepare, but then Mother Nature could impact a couple starts for our high school blood drives.”
Halvarson said he’s been working for the Blood Center for 21 years, originally being more involved in the Warwick area before moving around the state and experiencing the Johnston way. He said he’s run blood drives at essentially every public and private school across the Ocean State, but the Panthers’ steady performance has always kept them near the top.
“I’m just speaking from the heart because on my way here, I said to myself again, ‘What am I going to say?’” Halvarson said. “But I already knew what I wanted to say, and that is it’s been impressive to see Johnston High School on this ride and for many years I’m just sitting there watching it and now I’m part of the journey, so it’s really cool.”
Heart was a theme, too, as Vice Chair Joseph Rotella said there was one upper hand Johnston had over North Kingstown.
“We have more heart,” Rotella said.