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Advancement News

Kent State Student Philanthropy Campaign Awards First Scholarship

Posted Jan. 31, 2011

Kent State's Campaign for Change, the university's student philanthropy initiative, celebrated a major milestone this month in awarding its first scholarship to Kenneth Smith, a junior aeronautical systems engineering major from Streetsboro, Ohio.

Kenneth Smith
Over the course of the fall semester, the campaign enlists student volunteers to educate their peers about the impact of private support on their education and to encourage students to "pay it forward" supporting an endowed scholarship fund. Smith received weekly e-mails about contributing to the campaign but ignored them because he didn't believe the ambitious goals were achievable.

"I didn't think raising money from students to help other students would work," he says. "When I saw they had raised enough for a scholarship, I was impressed."

The committee similarly was impressed with Smith's application, which the group selected from the 168 that were submitted for the $1,250 scholarship. Of particular note to the group was his volunteer work with a local daycare, where he speaks about astronomy and teaches music to children.

'Kids aren't tainted by anything. "It's rare to see that, " Smith says. "I like working with them because of that."

Smith says the scholarship came at just the right time. For many students, financial burdens can force them to withdraw from classes, putting their academic dreams in jeopardy.

"I was actually thinking about taking a semester off because I didn't have enough money," he says. "When I read the e-mail saying I had received the scholarship, I was kind of like those people you see on YouTube acting crazy. It was like someone wanted me to go to school this semester."

Smith, who has one sister and three half-siblings, plans to be the first in his family to graduate from college. He hopes to parlay his degree into a career as an astronaut, calling himself a "big astronomy nerd."

"I know it's a crazy dream and people usually lose their dreams," he says. "But you have to aim big and shoot for the stars."

Since its launch in 2007, the Campaign for Change has raised more than $48,000 from students, parents, faculty and staff. Student gifts range from as little as $1 to as large as $200, raising a total of $2,000 from 365 students last fall. That marks a 124 percent increase in gifts and 57 percent increase in student participation since 2007.

In 2009, the fund reached the $25,000 threshold required to endow it, meaning Kent State students have left a legacy that will aid their peers, current and future, in perpetuity.

"We're fortunate to have students who care about one another and the legacy they leave at Kent State. Their goodwill is furthering our culture of philanthropy and exceeding even our greatest expectations," says Tiffany Schultz, associate director for annual giving. "The campaign has proven, time and again, that you should never underestimate the power of peers helping peers."

By Brian Thornton