Erin Ritter is not afraid of a challenge.
On June 17, the Caney Valley High School senior organized a blood drive on the Greenbush campus at the recommendation of Lisa Blair, her instructor in the Greenbush/Tri-County Gifted Education Program. It's an impressive accomplishment for a high schooler, but a small feat compared to her future plans.
"I read a biography by a trauma surgeon and everything he described—his entire life—it sounded exactly like what I want to do," Ritter said. "It's all really exciting. You're constantly learning new things and helping a variety of people. He talked about taking care of POWs and how eye-opening that was."
Ritter is intent on following suit by becoming a trauma surgeon and serving in the military, where she expects to work 70-hour weeks in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable. She's preparing now for the training it will take to get there.
Ritter became a certified phlebotomist in January, completing a three-month course and 130 hours of clinicals. She plans to work as a phlebotomist to help pay her way through medical school and gain more exposure to the healthcare field.
She said it sometimes made people nervous to have a young person drawing their blood, but she quickly learned ways to put people at ease.
"You have to act confident even if you're having trouble finding a vein," Ritter said. "You have to act like you know what you're doing. If you're stuttering and can't say their name, their veins will hide right away."
Ritter displayed an interest in science early on. As a high school freshman, she took a biology course typically taken by juniors.
"We were doing dissections and everything like that," Ritter said. "Nothing else clicked like that did."
Ritter credits the gifted program for helping give her a big head start on her future career.
"The gifted program really opened my eyes," Ritter said. "I never realized what kinds of things you could learn while you were still in high school. I remember I was in 7th grade and I was taking a coding class at Greenbush. And every time I have an idea about anything, Lisa will help me out and give me more opportunities and outlets to learn."
Ritter also organized a blood drive at a nearby community college. She says that while organizing these drives will look impressive on college applications, she also has a personal connection to the work.
“I actually have a friend in Tennessee who is suffering from a weird blood disease,” Ritter said. “It’s not a cancer, but it acts like a cancer. Her blood is attacking itself right now. She constantly needs transfusions so blood drives like this are really important.”