Although small in size, that little heart on the front of your license is capable of making a huge impact—just ask Sara Miller. Founder of SODA, Student Organ Donation Advocates, Sara has created a huge on-campus conversation that sharing is caring. And by sharing, we mean blood, bone marrow and organs. A literal lifesaver, Sara is determined to spread the word about organ donation to the collegiette generation; and, we have to say, she’s done a pretty unbelievable job so far.
Name: Sara Miller
College: Washington University in St. Louis
Major: Healthcare Management
Graduation Date: December, 2017
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Sara Miller: While working to increase awareness about organ donation, I rarely know the extent of the impact I’m making--and that’s okay. Sometimes, though, I get a glimpse at the lifesaving power of education. Each conversation matters. Once, I explained to my friend how one person’s gift of life can save eight lives and potentially enhance the lives of up to 50 individuals. A few weeks after this conversation, her family friend’s stepson was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. She encouraged the friend to consider donating his deceased stepson’s organs, and this young man became an organ donor, saving and enhancing 13 lives. What do I consider to be my greatest accomplishment? Sharing my passion about organ donation and inspiring others to do the same; I am convinced that these ordinary conversations will inspire countless miracles.
HC: What was the hardest part of founding and developing SODA?
SM: Too often people are pessimistic and start with “no.” I heard “no” at each stage of founding SODA. No, you can’t get funding. No, you can’t have a program in this room. No, you are too young to start an organization. And even if you pass these hurdles, nobody will attend your events. My goal became moving people to “yes.” I emphasized the specific benefits that my organization would provide to the school, community and the individuals involved. I couldn’t let the naysayers discourage me from realizing my vision. By believing wholeheartedly in SODA’s mission, being persistent when reaching out to others, and sharing my dreams with others, I have been able to overcome this negativity and achieve my goals.
HC: Why has your participation with SODA been so instrumental in your life?
SM: The greatest tragedy of my life has fueled my passion to save lives. When I was 12-years-old, my older sister, Laura, passed away suddenly from a cancerous brain tumor. Her liver, which our family agreed to donate, saved a woman's life in New York; that woman's name is Trish. The devastating loss of Laura, combined with the miraculous story of her having saved a life, has motivated me to advocate on behalf of organ donation, and hopefully save more lives. Founding SODA and empowering others to share their passion for donation has helped me find meaning in an otherwise senseless loss. By leading an effort to mobilize passionate students, I can be part of a life-saving movement, and at the same time show others that even through the darkest times, one can find hope.
HC: Who in your life most inspires you?
SM: My immediate family inspires me. My dad acts as the rock in our family. He is determined, hardworking and encourages everyone around him to reach their potential. I strive to be like my mom; she is compassionate, poised and motivated. She is currently writing a book, so she can share what she has learned about confronting adversity. My older sister, Laura, taught me the importance of being kind and supportive to everyone, even when it is not easy or convenient. She also showed me that everyone can make a difference in the lives of others. And my younger sister, Rachel, is my best friend, confidante and role model. She is the definition of resilient, and always knows how to have fun and keep us laughing.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
SM: Never work in a vacuum, and always share your ideas with others. From my experience, the best ideas come from creating an idea, sharing it with a friend or at a meeting, and listening to how people respond and then modifying the idea as needed.
HC: What are your top goals and priorities post-graduation?
SM: While the future is always uncertain and unpredictable, I have big dreams for the next five years. In the next year, SODA plans to expand to other campuses using our innovative model. We hope to empower college students to bring organ donation to their campuses and create more life-saving miracles. I will also be spending the fall 2016 semester abroad in Israel, learning about their unique organ donation system while studying business at a university near Tel Aviv. I plan to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in healthcare management and a minor in psychology. Afterwards, I hope to expand my efforts regarding organ, blood or marrow donation, perhaps working at a national advocacy organization. But who knows? I’ll see where life takes me.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
SM: Do it with passion or not at all.
HC: How would you describe yourself in five words?
SM: Passionate, self-reliant, motivated, organized, resilient
Elana is a sophomore in the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, majoring in magazine journalism and economics. She currently works as an editorial intern for Her Campus, as well as a writer for her school's chapter, Her Campus Northwestern. She'll be going abroad in the fall to study journalism in Prague, working at a local media outlet in addition to her classes. In her free time, she captains her Dance Marathon team and teaches local public high schoolers through Peer Health Exchange. She loves spinning, hates nutella, and is totally indifferent towards baby animals. After graduation, she hopes to work for a high-profile lifestyle publication.