A Challenge- Social Networks Can Fuel a Financial Aid Revolution

While in high school, I was the captain of the boys cross country team, and my favorite memories from that time were at Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha running the trails with my teammates. The team (both the guys and the girls) really felt like a second family to me, and we were known in the school as “those runners.” For the past few years, I have thought about starting up a scholarship fund for graduating seniors from Racine Case High School that had run cross country. I wanted to do this as a way to give back to new members of my “family” and help people out in a significant way, while maintaining my connection with my high school and the strong, local running community that exists in Racine.

While I was in college, however, I was more worried about my own costs, and as I have said before, often worked 4 jobs at a time just to try to pay for school and living expenses. I didn’t have time or money to work on my scholarship idea, and so I let it go. The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the rising cost of education, and as in my last post, some crazy things people are doing to pay for school. Now that I have a solid job and some extra income, I thought again about my scholarship idea. Then, like any good person from my generation, I went on facebook.

I sent a message to 50 people who ran cross country with me, or were parents of people who had run. I brought up the idea of starting a scholarship, and hoped that I could get three to five people to help me or pledge donations. Within the first hour, my friends blew my mind. As a testament to how much the cross country team meant to us, as well as to how often people of my generation check facebook, within the first 60 minutes I had ten people message back, with a total pledge amount of $700. A day later, we’re at almost $1000 pledged, enough already to give 1- $500 scholarship each to a male and female student athlete. The donation list is only growing.

Off of this success, I am challenging my friends to do the exact same thing I did. Think back to high school and to something you were passionate about. Think of the other people you knew then who shared that passion. Ask them to donate any possible amount to help other young people pursue their dreams. Community scholarship programs do not exist in large numbers, but why not? It ONLY takes 50 people giving $20 each to give one $1000 scholarship or two $500 scholarships. That’s one night at the bars people. $20 is not a large impact on a single person, but together, the combined $1000 can make a huge impact on someone’s ability to afford a high quality education and achieve their dreams. Contact your high schools, alumni booster clubs, and PTA’s. Many of them already offer scholarships and would be more than willing to help set up the fund for the award of your choice within their own structures. Because of this, the work on your end may be as simple as writing a check and getting others to do the same.

I am blown away by the show of support I have received within only one day of making a simple ask. My friends from the Case Cross Country team are amazing people, and at the rate we’re going, we may be able to give two $1000 scholarships this year. Please match our success, and help build a movement. More scholarship money needs to be available to graduates, and small donations can fuel this. We like to claim that we are the masters of online social media and networking. It’s time that we used this to really make a difference in people’s lives.

-Carl Fergus

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