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Anna Rayis

Anderson University, IN | Winner, Student Leader of the Year, 2013-14

Project: Anna’s Student United Way participated in the United Way of Madison County’s annual projectOperation Weatherization. The United Way gathered about 125 community volunteers in November to help lower income families improve their homes’ energy efficiency by covering windows with plastic, changing water heater filters and more. The Student United Way worked to recruit volunteers on campus. They reached out to staff and interest groups, walked through halls and dorms and utilized the United Way of Madison County’s previous success with the project to generate interest.

Why Anna Lives United: “United Way has different connections to the community than [those my university has]. Deeper connections because that’s their focus and that’s what they do every day. [Working with United Way gave us] the support of people in the community who said, ‘Oh, you’re working with United Way? We’ll donate because we know that organization.’ If we were just students, we wouldn’t have been trusted in the same way.”

Seema Patel

University of California at Riverside CA | Winner, Student United Way HEALTH Award, 2013-14

Project: The Student United Way of UCR provided an on-the-ground information session to inform fellow students of health care coverage options in the Affordable Care Act. They invited the organization Coverage California to lead a presentation and answer questions. To spread the word beforehand, members reached out to academic and college counselors in science- and health-related fields, presented in classrooms, set up tables around lunchtime, posted banners and flyers and tapped into their Facebook networks.

Why Seema Lives United: “Being involved with Student United Way has definitely changed me as a person. [Before] I got involved my second year, I’d always loved to volunteer and go out and be active. United Way changed my mentality of why we go out and do things and help people... The people we’ve worked with have really opened my eyes and helped me realize where the importance is. It helped me grow up a lot.”

Jianna Sims

Rutgers University – New Brunswick, NJ | Winner, Student United Way ADVOCATE Award, 2013-14

Project: In conjunction with the 50 year anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the Student United Way of Rutgers–New Brunswick organized a multi-day poverty simulation for 16 student participants. Students were challenged to live on minimum wage within special conditions. Participant conditions included a single parent with one child, parents with two kids, people with longer commutes, someone who relied heavily on medication and someone with a pet. This project raised awareness of the challenges of living on a low income and also of Student United Way’s work to help out.

Why Jianna Lives United: “[Student United Way] has made me more responsible. It was very tough this year to manage time, working with major projects like that. It takes a lot of planning. [...] It’s great to see the recognition we’ve gotten from the school and nationwide.”

Christina Roberti

Cornell University, NY | Winner, Student United Way GIVE Award, 2013-14

Project: Christina’s Student United Way, composed of two co-chairs and project-specific volunteers, raised $25,000 for Summer of Service internships for youth in the community. One of the largest fundraisers was the Duff Ball, a senior prom throwback with a court, music and drinks. The co-chairs began planning the May event in January. Since it began about eight years ago, the annual event has built incredible clout and in 2014 sold out in 60 seconds. About 700 seniors attended, buying $50 tickets and raising about $35,000 before overhead costs.

Why Christina Lives United: “[Through Student United Way] I met lots of student leaders on campus I wouldn’t have met otherwise. They’re some of my closest friends. ... [Student United Way] defined my experience. I was co-chair for half of my college career and those two years were the best of my [college] experience.”

Moriah Petty

Ithaca College, NY | Winner, Student United Way EDUCATION Award, 2013-14

Project: Started as a microgrant foundation, the Student United Way of Ithaca College focuses its efforts on funding projects that aren’t eligible for grants or might be seen as risky pilot programming. The United Way of Tompkins County pitched a Youth Venture seed funding endeavor. About 12 high school students signed up to develop projects and apply for funding from Student United Way under the mentorship of a professor. The Student United Way raised money through a family carnival fundraiser, a faculty/staff drive, posting on faculty notice boards, sending letters and working with the local United Way to allow donors to allot their money to the Student United Way. Final projects include the Honest Beauty Project, which challenges beauty norms through the social media that often perpetuate them, and the Get Real project, which teaches gender equality through children’s books.

Why Moriah Lives United: “I’ve always cared about community service [but] it’s good to get outside of the mindset that the best work you can do is direct action, which I still believe is a fantastic way, but money is an important part. There are so many resources you need other than people. ... [The other Student United Way members] are very serious about where the money can do the most good. What is the impact really going to be and are we perpetuating the situations and asking the difficult questions?”

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