High school student Giana Fusco has volunteered for the local Veterans Affairs Clinic for the last two summers. This week, as part of a national project to support veterans, Fusco is working with local officials to conduct a blood drive to address the supply shortage.
Earlier this year, Fusco was accepted into the VA’s National Student Leadership Council, a program that helps student volunteers develop their leadership skills and work with other students from across the nation. Currently, there are 34 SLC members nationwide.
As part of the program, the student ambassadors conduct local projects for their regional Veterans Affairs locations in addition to completing a national project to support veterans alongside their program peers. The national project for the 2022 SLC is a blood drive. Fusco said they decided on the project based on the national blood shortage, and the contributions will go toward local hospitals.
Working collaboratively with Vicki Ellis, Western Kentucky Blood Center’s Director of Communications, Development and Recruitment, Fusco scheduled the drive and then created promotional materials to share locally and on social media.
“I was interested to find out how much blood was a needed resource in our community,” Fusco said. “With Owensboro being my hometown, I thought it would allow me to reach people that I knew would donate blood. I donated for the first time … and will definitely do it again in the future.”
Fusco contacted local veterans and military organizations to ask for their help this week for her project, but the drive is open to anyone who is able to donate.
The blood drive runs through Friday at WKRBC (3015 Old Hartford Road). The center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“I hope many more in the community will participate and make this drive as successful as possible for the community,” she said.
Ellis said it was amazing to see her take ownership and leadership of “such a serious issue with dire consequences.”
“Giana is 100% on board for making sure our local blood supply doesn’t fall short,” Ellis said.
Fusco has also completed an individual service project combining her love of dance with the VA community.
“I researched many of the benefits of dance and presented them to the Whole Health Program at the VA,” she said. “Dance can be considered an alternate means to relieve trauma and stress that veterans have experienced in service.”
Through her research, Fusco also found dance can improve memory, balance, self-esteem, brain function and more. She led a dance class with VA employees and provided education about the benefits of dance therapy.
“I am also creating a video for the veterans that will accomplish the same goal of promoting joy, relieving stress and increasing personal well-being,” she said. “Dance has made such a positive impact on my life and I hope to bring the same to veterans.”
Upon completion of the assignments, her individual project and the national calls, Fusco will graduate from the program in late August and plans to continue volunteering for the VA and other programs in the future.