A Priceless Gift
Alma Guzman Wins a GCRBC Scholarship for Essay on Blood Drives & Donations
By Hayden Bergman
Alma Guzman, a junior in UHD’s Bachelor of Social Work program, is a witness to the power of blood. How it flows through hearts and veins, providing oxygen and nutrients to vital tissues throughout the body, and, in turn, making joy, sadness—life, even—possible.
It’s no wonder, then, that she recently won a scholarship from the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center (GCRBC) for her essay submission in which she touched on the data surrounding blood drives and their benefits, ways to hold a successful blood drive, as well as how university students can get involved in saving lives.
Guzman, a seasoned medical professional with 15 years of experience as a phlebotomist, often works with recipients and donors, and has seen the power of just one blood donation. “When you donate blood, you are saving someone’s life,” she said. She went on to note that, oftentimes, a donation results in someone “[getting] a second opportunity to enjoy … their loved ones.”
The data backs her up. According to the GCRBC, “one in seven hospitalized people will need a blood transfusion,” while only “one in 20 eligible blood donors actually donate.” As Guzman writes succinctly in her essay, “If we all donate, we increase the possibility for patient survival.”
A significant portion of her winning submission was dedicated to providing insight on how blood drives can be improved. For example, she sees access as a major issue: “Giving donors free transportation, meal vouchers, and gift cards” are all ways that Guzman says the GCRBC and other blood banks can remove barriers to donation. Providing for these basic needs, Guzman says, will provide blood banks with a previously untapped donor base. Also, interpretation services for non-English speakers would help “properly communicate with the donor.” These blood drives can also form part of the community-involved education that is paramount at UHD, Guzman says: “As a university student, it is a part of our learning process to be involved in the needs of society and our communities.”
Of course, all of these are great things. Wonderful, even. But they aren’t why Guzman won the GCRBC scholarship. She won because, as her essay makes plain, she has a clear view toward what a person is giving when they donate blood: a gift. "Giving blood is the kindest gift in life,” she wrote in her essay. Unlike many gifts, Guzman says, giving blood “is priceless.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.