Student Organ Donation Advocates organize to save lives

Updated: 4 days ago

AN INTERVIEW WITH PROGRAM MANAGER NICOLE NIDEA.



Can you describe Student Organ Donation Advocates (SODA) in 1-2 sentences?


Students are influencers within their communities. We believe that by activating student organ

donation advocates, we can reduce the critical organ shortage and save lives.



How did the idea for organization come to be? Where is it today?


The idea for SODA started in a college dorm room. When our founder, Sara, was a freshman in

college, she was eager to advocate for organ donation and share the story of how her sister,

Laura, saved a life. She teamed up with other passionate students and launched the first-ever

SODA chapter. Her work struck a chord with students, many of whom had never thought about

organ donation but were excited about registering as organ donors.


Today, we are grateful to support nearly 40 college chapters (and counting!). Our passion is

supporting student advocates and reducing barriers. So, we provide students with grants for

event support, branded supplies, and tons of resources to make their advocacy journey

seamless and meaningful. Check out our story and more about our work here.



How did you get involved with SODA?


I got involved with SODA when I was a freshman in college. I was captivated by the impact one

person can have (did you know one organ donor can save EIGHT lives?!). Little did I know,

organ donation advocacy would not only become my extracurricular passion but my full-time job!



In the 7 years since its inception, what has been the most challenging aspect of

growing an organization like SODA? What has been most rewarding?


When I step into work every day (I work from home, so my at-home office!), I tackle new

challenges and develop new resources to support our student advocates. There are so many

ways for us to execute our mission, but we need to prioritize to be effective and not get burnt

out. So, I work with our volunteer leadership and board on a constant basis to ensure that all of

our programs align with our mission and enable us to maximize our impact. It’s not easy saying

“no” to some projects that cross my desk, but saying “no” to some allows me to say “yes” to others!


What is most rewarding to me is working with our passionate student leaders. I am amazed by

their stories. One chapter founder I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know is Anaya Motlagh

from Miami Palmetto Senior High School. Aryana founded her SODA chapter when she was a

freshman because her dad is in need of a kidney transplant. She advocates in her community in

hopes her dad and others can receive life-saving transplants. I love being able to support

passionate students, like Aryana, by making it easier for them to advocate for organ donation!



What goals have you set, and how do you go about achieving them? Any advice for others?


At SODA, we dream big. One of our recent goals was to become a home for all student organ donation advocates. That means that in addition to chapters, we wanted to support students who want to host a one-time event. Just a few weeks ago, we launched this program. Up next for us is launching a comprehensive scholarship program to support student organ donation advocates and growing our team further to support the quickly-increasing numbers of student advocates we support!


My best advice for those chasing big goals is to talk to those who have been through a similar

journey before you. Do you see someone on social media who is one step ahead of you? Reach

out to them! Mentorship has had such an impact on me, and I encourage you to take advantage

of it. If I can ever be a resource to you, feel free to reach out. My email is below!



What has been one of your favorite memories since launching SODA?


We awarded our first ever Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Organ and

Tissue Donation Advocacy Scholarships this summer to six amazing HBCU students who are

interested in organ and tissue donation advocacy. To celebrate their achievements, we hosted

an Awards Ceremony. At the Awards Ceremony, each recipient had the opportunity to share

why they are passionate about organ and tissue donation. Hearing their stories was inspiring! I

am so glad that we could support them by providing scholarships for their education and

encourage them to advocate on campus for organ and tissue donation.



How can we get more individuals involved, students or non-students, in supporting your mission?


Our favorite place to hang out is on Instagram. Follow us @sodanational!


If you’re interested in getting involved, we encourage you to visit our website to learn more.


If you want to make a financial donation to support our work or have any questions, feel free to

say “hi” at nicole@sodanational.org



Where do you hope to see the future of SODA, and/or organ donation in general, in the

next 5/10/15 years thanks to young advocates like yourselves?


We’ve got lots of plans to expand our impact over the coming years. Two of our key priorities

are supporting our existing student advocates and growing our base of advocates to scale our

impact. To do so, we plan to strengthen the resources we provide to our advocates, improve the​

outreach we do especially to multicultural communities, and launch a brand-new scholarship

Program.



We're all about good fuel over here! When it's time to take a break, what fuels you up?


Outside of work, I love to try out new recipes! Cooking and baking is a great way to create

something to share with my loved ones. Some of my favorite recipes that I go back to time and

time again are this chicken pot pie and lentil soup. Both recipes are delicious, comforting fuel.




Lastly, we’d love to offer Friyay Fuel readers a FREE magnet to show off their support for organ

donation! Claim your magnet today at sodanational.org/giveaway.




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