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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Why philanthropy should matter to everyone

I’m the daughter of blue-collar parents who worked hard to give my three younger siblings and me the best chance in life to succeed. My dad left high school to start work as an electrician and now runs a small business with pride, despite never having gone to college. My mom got her undergraduate degree in psychology from a small, all-girls college. She was a stay-at-home mom, but she now goes to community college and hopes to pursue graduate school.

Giving back was a value they taught me from a young age, even though we never had a lot of money to spare. At Christmas time, we bought a few presents for an Angel Tree kid; in the spring, we donated the clothes that could no longer be handed down; in the summertime all proceeds from my lemonade stands went to the local animal shelter.

As I grew up it became clear that college was in my future. I worked hard and applied to schools regardless of the tuition cost. When I was accepted into Drexel, I was delighted to have received a partial scholarship. I would still have to take out significant student loans, but I believe education is an investment.

My first two years at Drexel have been the best years of my life so far. Drexel has given me opportunities to grow as a young professional, make friends from all over the world, and have amazing learning experiences in class and on co-op. I have been able to connect with many of the people who work at the University, especially in the Office of Institutional Advancement. I felt honored to be asked to participate in the Student Philanthropy Task Force. In our first meeting, the conversation began with myths surrounding philanthropy.

What do you think of when you think of giving back to your university? Do you imagine your donation lining the pockets of some fat-cat executive who squanders it — as well as your tuition money — on tropical vacations, fast cars and big houses? Or, do you imagine your donation being used to help fund your student group that wants to host a speaker, a scholarship for a classmate in need or helping the library purchase that new book you wanted to read?

Drexel is a nonprofit institution where tuition covers only 78 percent of operating expenses. The remaining funds come from a large group of individuals who are passionate about higher education and value what the Drexel experience provides for its students. These aren’t just the extremely wealthy big names you see engraved in granite on buildings across campus. These are your professors, alumni of all generations and members of the community. They span generations, socio-economic backgrounds and professions. One of those donors could also be you.

We wanted to create a campaign that would change the conversation about philanthropy on campus and what it means to give back. There must be something at Drexel that you love and care about. For me, it is the student organizations I’m a part of. I participate in the triathlon team, International Student Union and Drexel Women in Business. My triathlon team wants to send 20 members to nationals in Arizona. ISU is hosting the International Ball, and even though it is costly to plan, we are committed to keeping it free to attend so everyone can celebrate with us. DWIB wants to run more professional development events on campus, but we need more funding in order to continue.

My Legacy was the name of the campaign we came up with. We wanted to teach students that philanthropy is about passion — a passion for giving back to what matters to you. Giving a gift to Drexel, no matter how small, makes a difference. The task force hopes to create a stronger culture of giving. I’m here because someone who didn’t know me decided to make my education more affordable. I want that legacy to continue. While my co-op salary is not lucrative enough to fund a scholarship, I can chip in with friends to send my team to nationals, throw a ball and plan an event that helps a freshman rock her first job interview. I am proud to be a part of the My Legacy campaign, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.

Elizabeth Cahill is a sophomore buisness major at Drexel University. She can be contacted at op-ed@thetriangle.org.