K-State students work passionately, proud to be purple

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K-State’s student-led philanthropic campaign began its fourth year with the annual K-State PROUD Volunteer Kick-Off Event last night in the K-State Student Union.

The campaign’s student-oriented mentality was on display as numerous students crowded Union Station, many already sporting the campaign’s shirts for 2010 featuring a classic Willie the Wildcat on a purple background. Robert Swift, senior in political science and K-State PROUD co-chair, welcomed the crowd and provided a history of the campaign.

Only about 20 percent of K-State’s budget is funded by the State of Kansas. The remainder comes from tuition dollars and donors, Swift said. Four years ago, students inspired by other actions at campuses around the nation and giving developed the campaign, he said.

Money raised by the campaign goes toward Student Opportunity Awards. There are two types of Student Opportunity Awards. One is the K-State Proud award, which is allocated to students who have exhausted all other forms of financial assistance, according to the K-State PROUD Web site. The other, the K-State Hero award, benefits students who have shown a commitment to K-State through leadership roles, community service or other efforts benefiting student life. Anna Zeiger, senior in nutritional sciences and K-State PROUD co-chair, referred to Hero award winners as “unsung heroes.”

“They may not receive recognition otherwise,” she said.

In 2007, the campaign’s first year, a fundraising goal of $30,000 was set. The campaign ended up raising more than $60,000. 2008 and 2009 saw similar fundraising goals eclipsed. The PROUD campaign is unique, Swift said.

“We want to keep this rolling,” he said.

For 2010, a fundraising goal of $115,000 has been set. The culmination of efforts will come on February 27 during the men’s basketball game against Missouri with the announcement of the fundraising totals.

Volunteers make up a significant portion of the campaign’s support. At the event, prospective volunteers were able to sign-up for many different opportunities to solicit donations and distribute the campaign t-shirts which are available with a minimum donation of $10. Matt Marchesini, junior in finance and management, said he plans to volunteer for K-State PROUD because it is a worthwhile organization that “you don’t see every day.”

“It’s great to see a student body come together for a common cause that’s not athletics-based,” he said. “It’s not cheering on for a team, it’s cheering on to make sure that K-State students just like me are able to come here and get a great education.”

Michael Wesch, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and social work and 2010 K-State PROUD honorary co-chair, said he originally thought the campaign was merely about selling t-shirts. Upon further explanation and an invitation to serve as honorary co-chair, Wesch said he began to grasp the campaign’s importance.

“I think the thing that really struck me the most was when I actually started meeting some of my own students that were PROUD award winners,” he said. “Who actually would not be in my classes if it were not for the awards. I thought, these are some of my favorite students and we would not even be here without it.”

Wesch and his Digital Ethnography class helped create a YouTube video encapsulating the message of students helping students. During the nearly five minute video, a large group of students form a “flash mob of kindness,” Wesch said. The “flash mob” pools money and pays for a student’s lunch in the Union food court, pays for a student’s textbooks, assists a student in crossing, hands out money to students entering the Union and assist a car in parallel parking by lifting the car into its spot in Aggieville.

Other students have spread the word about K-State PROUD in different ways. Ariel Sinha, sophomore in mass communications and a member of the K-State PROUD advisory board, helped make bulletin board packets for all of the resident assistants and multicultural assistants in the residence halls.

“There really shouldn’t be an excuse for not having something that represents K-State PROUD on every floor of the residence halls,” she said.

Echoing similar themes, Reid Pankratz, junior in mass communications and PROUD campaign co-chair, said the most rewarding part of the PROUD campaign is making an impact.

“Upon completion of the video, going back and being able to watch everyone’s reactions and the opportunity to see our actions in effect, that’s when it hit me the most, the scope of the campaign.”

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