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Richmond student wins scholarship for organ donation awareness project

Rowah Gheriani from Richmond Secondary School received $1,500 from BC Transplant in recognition of her efforts.

A grade 12 student from Richmond Secondary School was awarded a $1,500 scholarship by BC Transplant for leading an organ transplant awareness campaign at school.

Rowah Gheriani had never considered scholarships until her last year of high school. And even then it seemed like a distant possibility.

"So when it happened, it was surreal! This was my very first one, and it means even more to me because of the cause behind it," she said.

BC Transplant's "Live Life. Pass It On." scholarship is awarded to four grade 12 students who lead organ donation projects in their schools or communities during the past school year. 

Gheriani's "individual effort and creativity" in engaging students and school staff on organ donation was what impressed BC Transplant. 

"Her enthusiasm and dedication shone through her project, and we were thrilled to award her one of our scholarships for 2022," read a statement from BC Transplant.

Green Shirt Day, with a pandemic twist

Gheriani has always been a passionate health advocate, and her ultimate goal is to advocate for young patients who "could not have the same school experiences due to health-related circumstances."

"I noticed how our generation sometimes takes our ‘normal’ lives for granted. Health is not necessarily a given, and at times we let our youthfulness blind us to forget how much of a blessing it is," she explained.

Gheriani learned about Cystic Fibrosis and organ transplant first from the movie Five Feet Apart and subsequently at school. But she noticed something was amiss.

"There was a lack of awareness about organ transplants, let alone the enormous need for it, and that was what we hoped to change with the project," she said.

To raise awareness for the subject, the Wish Youth Network Society club started by Gheriani and her friends was given permission to host Green Shirt Day in 2021.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the club chose to design and distribute buttons, most of which were hand-drawn by their friend Emma. They also encouraged younger grades to participate and learn about heavier topics by getting them to answer prompts about compassion and displaying their answers on a hand-painted poster.

This year, the club spiced things up with a game of jeopardy with simple questions and prizes to accompany its popular button initiative. Staff and students were also encouraged to wear green on April 7.

"It would not have been a success without my valuable teammates, Inshal, Nooran, Taima, the loyal club members and of course, my supportive teachers Mr. Fretz and Mrs. Gramm," she added.

A heartwarming achievement

Gheriani's achievement was made even more meaningful when she received the award from Eunice, a 19-year heart transplant recipient, at her grade 12 graduation.

"I felt greatly honoured to meet Eunice! Since she had been a 19-year recipient of a heart transplant herself, her direct involvement and connection to the actual cause we were advocating for made the moment all the more valuable," she said.

Gheriani is going to attend UBC in the fall, where she hopes to continue as an active member of First Responders and Red Cross, as well as an advocate for patients. But she hopes that the Green Shirt Day legacy will leave an impact on Richmond Secondary.

"We hope that our school will continue to annually host Green Shirt Day even after we’ve graduated because although we left, I’m sure we started a valuable tradition to pass on," she said.