It’s no secret Gen Zers are passionate about using their influence to support good causes that effect change. This is especially true for American Red Cross HBCU Ambassador Mya Rolinson. A sophomore at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, she is fearlessly championing the transfusion needs of sickle cell warriors by encouraging students, faculty and community members to donate blood.
Igniting a new generation of blood donors to help provide compatible blood transfusions for patients battling sickle cell is impressive in itself. Factor in Mya is a full-time student-athlete, a member of the Honors Program, registers students to vote with Common Cause North Carolina and helps raise scholarship funds as Miss UNCF Shaw University. She brings a wide range of leadership experience in sports, advocacy and community engagement that gives her an edge as a Red Cross HBCU Ambassador.
“When I heard that the main goal of the ambassador program was to increase blood donations to help those with sickle cell, as an exercise science major with a concentration in pre-athletic training, it definitely caught my eye because I've learned about sickle cell disease in different classes and from doing my own research,” said Mya. “I especially liked the idea of trying to get my friends to give blood because as a blood donor myself, I realize the impact I have.”
Turning Compassion into Action
Only in its first year, the Red Cross Ambassador Program focuses on providing scholarships, leadership, and mentorship opportunities to HBCU students who help promote broader awareness of sickle cell disease and the vital role blood donors who are Black play in supporting transfusion needs on their campus communities. Working with a local donor recruitment manager, Mya develops strategic tactics for helping recruit student organizations to host a blood drive while encouraging her peers to donate blood.
Convincing students to give blood who may be on the fence, never thought about donating or could be underrepresented as donors due to the need for more convenient blood drive opportunities can be complex. But, as a forward on the Shaw University women’s soccer team – a sport where Black women make up 3.8% (295 players) of all NCAA Division II women’s soccer players – Mya understands the significant impact of increasing access to increase diversity, on and off the field.
Growing up in Severn, Maryland, Mya fell in love with soccer at the tender age of six. However, she never imagined the sport would land her a scholarship opportunity to play at the collegiate level until she and her family were stationed in South Korea during her father’s military deployment.
“I was in high school in South Korea when COVID hit and all sports activities were shut down,” said Mya. “I realized how much I needed to keep playing and that I really, really wanted to find a school where I could focus on my major and still play the sport I love. Shaw had my major, women’s soccer and everything I wanted. On top of that, Shaw was an HBCU, and it just felt like the perfect fit.”
Carrying the Torch of Excellence
Founded in 1865, Shaw University is an incubator of excellence and one of the oldest HBCUs in the country. It’s where alumni like human and civil rights activist Ella Baker inspired a legacy of student-powered activism and community engagement.
Today, Mya is upholding Baker’s extraordinary legacy at Shaw by working to increase the number of voters and blood donors who are Black, bringing attention to the needs of college students and sickle cell warriors, all while proving one is never too young to lead and make a difference.
“My favorite part of this experience has been the connections I’ve made with other students who are part of the HBCU Ambassador Program,” said Mya. “It’s been really exciting learning more about how to host a blood drive, how to educate students and telling people, ‘You don't have to be afraid to do this and this is who you're helping. It could be your friend or your family member who needs blood – you never know.’ So, just seeing the impact that you have when you are involved in something like this is really special.”
Black Excellence is In Our Blood
Join Mya in the fight to help patients who have sickle cell disease and other needs by rolling up a sleeve to give blood during Black History Month. Use the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org/OurBlood, or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to schedule an appointment today.
Those who come to give blood, platelets or plasma Feb. 1-28, 2023, will receive a $10 Amazon.com Gift Card by email, thanks to our partners at Amazon. Join us in elevating Black Excellence this month: Discover and support Black-owned businesses on Amazon! Additionally, those who come to give Feb. 1-28, 2023, will be automatically entered for a chance to win a three-night trip to Clearwater Beach, Florida.
Terms apply for both offers. Visit rcblood.org/heart for details.