Kimberly Sealey was sitting in her principles of business class at Columbia's Oakland Mills High Shool yesterday when Jade Vaughn passed the word.
After two years and multiple trips to Annapolis, a bill the students conceived that would enlarge the pool of bone marrow donors by allowing people their age to volunteer won final approval by the Maryland General Assembly.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who must sign the bill before it becomes law, said he has no objection to the bill.
"We see it not as a victory for us, but a victory for all," said Joslyn Wolfe, the school's Sister to Sister Club faculty adviser who brought the idea to the members after reading about a similar law in Washington state three years ago.
Then, she said, "We never would have thought it would have reached this moment, that it would be this fruitful. The girls in the group worked very hard."
After being amended in the Senate to ensure that a doctor decides there is no serious medical risk for donors of any age, the bill was approved unanimously by the state Senate last week and by the House of Delegates yesterday.
Sealey, like Vaughn, Monica Holloway and Kenyetta Alston, enjoyed the moment after hearing the news.
"We're excited and happy," said Sealey, 17, who plans to attend Temple University next year.
The students brought their idea to Del. Elizabeth Bobo, the chief sponsor, who helped push it through the General Assembly.
"There is one thing that distinguishes this from anything else I've ever worked on. That is the idea originated completely from those students," Bobo said. "I think it's significant public policy. I feel real good about it."
The girls said they have learned a few lessons from the long process of doing research, preparing testimony, adapting to changes in the bill and returning a second year to push it through.
"I learned about perseverance. We stuck with it, and it finally came through," Sealey said.
Vaughn, 18, another club member, said she saw how much difference a few small amendments made this year. Last year's bill failed because it simply sought to lower the minimum age for donors to 16. This year, the emphasis was on a medical evaluation of each donor, regardless of age.
"I'm happy. It's a way for us to show that teenagers are able to do something positive, not just drunk driving and things like that. Finally we've come up and showed there are other things we're interested in," she said. Vaughn is headed for Rutgers next year.