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College Students Compete To Save Lives

Posted Jan 14 2009 8:50pm

Sports and academics aren't the only areas college students compete. Starting October 2007, college students in Illinois will have a unique challenge. The purpose of this “I Am. Are You?” Campus Challenge is not to win a trophy or earn a better grade. It will save lives! The challenge is a statewide organ/tissue donor registration drive competition between Illinois colleges and universities.

I had the privilege of being able to ask Scott Meis, Campaign Manager for Donate Life Illinois, about the upcoming campus challenge. Here is what he shared with me.

Roger: Why is Donate Life Illinois putting on the campus challenge?

Scott: Simply put, there are a lot of stereotypes that exist about college students being lazy or unconcerned with larger social issues. In our past work with Students for Organ Donation chapters and other student groups in Illinois, we’ve seen how motivated students can get around the issue of organ/tissue donation. There are still millions of Illinois residents that do not realize that they need to RE-REGISTER post Jan. 1, 2006 (when Illinois initiated their first-person consent registry) to ensure their wishes as donors. So many residents quickly associate signing the back of their driver’s license with being a donor, which is no longer the case in Illinois if you want to ensure your wishes.
The “I Am. Are You?” Campus Challenge is a great way for us to unite these college students for a one-month focused registration effort that engages students, faculty, staff, alumni and surrounding campus communities. Given the context and popularity of today’s social media atmosphere and the benefit of having an online registry in Illinois, it only makes sense that we put these elements together and forge ahead with a strong outreach effort.   

Roger: What goals do you hope to meet through this contest?
Scott: Primarily, we want to push beyond the notion of promoting the issue. Promotion is certainly a key element to any outreach initiative, but let’s face the facts…4,700 Illinoisans and now over 97,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving transplants. That demands action. It’s such a simple process to register and the potential benefit of one day being able to save 25 lives is downright incredible. This is such an easy, powerful issue for college students to get behind.
Second, we want to not only engage college students, but make them strong advocates. We have some great content lined up to keep their attention engaged with the Challenge and on the issue at large during October. We hope that this will eventually spur registered donors to tell their friends, family and so forth about the need to re-register. Even with our support and coalition partners, Donate Life Illinois is a pretty small team, so we need all the help we can get encouraging action and spreading the word about Illinois’ new registry.

Roger: What schools are involved?

Scott: As of August 30, we already have the following schools planning to participate in the Challenge in one capacity or another:

  • University of Illinois
  • Western Illinois University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Southern Illinois University (Carbondale & Edwardsville)
  • Illinois State University
  • Illinois Wesleyan University
  • Loyola University
  • Midwestern University
  • Columbia College
  • Illinois Institute of Technology
  • North Central College
  • Illinois Central College
  • Monmouth College

We’re incredibly cognizant of the limited time and resources of college students, so we work with each group on an individual basis to ensure their efforts can be maximized. With our Facebook group, MySpace group, YouTube and other online communities, we’re working hard to engage as many students as possible in the effort.

I am excited about the hope this campaign will bring to others. Be sure you check out, and to learn more about how to get involved.

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