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When Byron Terry earned a Class Gift Scholarship, the award came as a tremendous relief. The $450 scholarship helped to pay for books, supplies and fees. “It basically filled the gap that I wasn’t able to cover being a full-time student,” said Terry, who is on track to earn a Master of Arts in Inner City Studies in December.
Founded in 1996, the Class Gift Scholarship Fund has developed a tradition among Northeastern Illinois University’s graduating seniors who use the fund to give back to students like Terry who share the same financial challenges and academic goals.
Before accepting the Class Gift Scholarship, Terry happily agreed to participate in a new program that encourages Northeastern students to help fellow students. It’s called the Student Philanthropy Initiative, and it’s gaining traction in its second year at Northeastern.
Launched during Golden Eagle Welcome Day for incoming students in 2016, the program is part of a growing national trend to educate students on the importance of giving back to their universities. At Northeastern, the program concentrates on five specific goals:
- Educate students on the importance of giving
- Raise funds for the Class Gift Scholarship Fund
- Complete community service projects
- Create philanthropic traditions
- Host student life activities that build school spirit throughout the University
As a recipient of one of four annual Class Gift Scholarships, Terry appreciates the importance of scholarships.
“Scholarships make studies possible,” said Terry, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of Sociology of Education. Ultimately, Terry wants to study how city structures work, and how government and society affect how people live their lives daily. “Financial stress is one of those things that can hinder you from earning a quality education, so earning a scholarship definitely takes that burden off of my shoulders,” he said.
While philanthropy may call to mind million-dollar donors, that’s not what this initiative is about.
“A lot of people think philanthropy is just about giving money. It’s not,” said Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Ashley Agron, who spearheads the program at Northeastern. “Student philanthropy is about giving your time, your talent and your treasure to help improve the world around you.”
In just two years, the initiative has coordinated a food drive, provided volunteers for public television fundraisers, organized Dinner For 12 events that pair alumni and mentors with current students, and launched “penny wars” games in which student organizations compete to raise money for scholarships.
“This is about students helping students, peer-to-peer fundraising,” said Agron, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Northeastern in 2015. “It is building traditions to get students to grow that affinity to Northeastern.”