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Berea Ambassadors lead community giving project

At a time when Berea’s endowment is severely hit by the worst recession since the Great Depression, Berea students step up and keep their tradition of giving back alive.

Berea Ambassadors with President Shinn

A successful grassroots fundraising initiative was organized by the Berea Ambassadors, a group of select student volunteers who represent the college in official capacity to donors and alumni. Titled “My Berea, Their Future, Our Legacy,” the project sought donations to Berea from students through deductions from their labor earnings.

The project coincided with the beginning of the fall semester, a time when students incur expenses on books and back-to-school items. Despite this, about 180 Berea students responded to the call and pledged more than $2000 worth of deductions from their paychecks.

Berea has lost about 30% of its endowment because of the current global financial crisis. As an institution drawing 80% of its operating budget from its endowment, Berea faces a difficult task in the years ahead. This realization prompted Berea Ambassadors to launch the project.

Rutendo Mwaramba, sophomore Math major from Zimbabwe, was one of the 23 Berea Ambassadors leading the initiative. “It took thinking about it in my own way … how somebody who is being helped can actually help in the same way,” he thought about the economically disadvantaged students Berea is educating. But he found an answer:

“But then I thought about it as something intended to spread a culture of giving among the Berea college students. By giving now and grooming that culture in them whilst they’re still in college – even though they’re giving not that much – it is really going to help in the long run,” Mwaramba said.

And so Mwaramba talked to fellow students face-to-face, announced the initiative at his weekly labor meeting and frequently updated his facebook status encouraging students to donate.

“It really took my stepping out there and approaching as many students as I could.” In fact, most of his status updates this semester are about the project, he revealed.

Among the students who answered the call was Grace Banga, senior Nursing major from Sudan. Because of internal conflicts in her country, she lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Kenya as she grew up.

“I gave back to enable other students like myself to come to Berea,” she explained.

Facilitated by the Office of Alumni Relations, the Berea Ambassadors program was started in 2008. Berea Ambassadors represent Berea to donors and alumni, and receive guests and trustees both on and off campus. Ambassadors are from around the world and across the United States, and study in various academic disciplines.

Explaining the purpose of the fundraising initiative, Coordinator of Alumni and Student Programs Nolan Oberg said, “We wanted to create this atmosphere on campus where the idea of giving back is nurtured and encouraged.”

All 23 Berea Ambassadors were among the first to donate. Inspired by the participation from students, Vice President of Alumni and College Relations Bill Laramee has pledged to match all the funds raised by Berea Ambassadors.

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