Give back as a way to show gratitude

By Matt Pasquini

In high school, community service was always something I took to heart. While I wasn’t a regular volunteer at the local soup kitchen or at our local miracle field, I would occasionally participate in service projects through my youth group and even took the initiative to organize my own project with other students from my high school band.

Participating in community service always brought me strong intrinsic rewards. 

The satisfaction of knowing that I helped someone while opening myself up to new experiences is unparalleled, and a feeling I hope everyone can experience at some point in their lives. 

But even more, I’ve always felt a responsibility to participate in community service. Back at home, my high school marching band was largely supported by the fundraising of band members. The money we raised allowed us to compete in state and regional competitions and even participate in the Bands of America Grand National Championships.

In essence, doing community service was a way of saying thanks to the people who have done so much to support us. The financial support of former band parents, supporters of the fine arts and people who were in the giving mood is the reason our marching band was able to take advantage of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 

Here at the University, we’re surrounded by a community similar to the one I have back at home. While it’s true that there’s a price tag on the college experience, the tuition and fees we pay aren’t enough to support all of the functions that allow the University to create experiences for personal development and growth.

On June 1, 2007, the University of Illinois Foundation launched the Brilliant Futures Campaign which was designed to, “secure the reputation of the University of Illinois as the nation’s top public university and as a leader in private fundraising.” 

It was the largest campaign ever launched with a goal of raising $2.25 billion and it proved fruitful seeing as they surpassed that goal and raised $2.43 billion. That’s almost a $180 million difference.

This money was meant to support all three University of Illinois institutions — at Champaign-Urbana, Chicago and Springfield — and our campus was fortunate enough to receive the largest portion of the money raised.

More specifically, the money that was collected is being used to further research opportunities for students and faculty, expand opportunities for more students through additional scholarships and fellowships, and enhance the student life by providing more academic programs and cultural opportunities. 

The breakdown shows that our University’s alumni were the biggest donors. 

Testimonies from the Giving at Illinois page identify multiple reasons as to why alumni were so eager to give back to the community, ranging from gratitude for the given opportunities to honoring current and former faculty members. 

One donor, Melissa Casey, who graduated from the College of Business in 1989, said she gave, “In memory of Professor Dick Hill, whose impact on my career and life was immeasurable.” 

Another donor, Joyce Hodel, who graduated from the College of Media in 1981 said, “I think it’s important to continue supporting my alma mater. I want to see it maintain its excellent reputation — as an alum (a proud one!), I think I continue to benefit from that.” 

At one point these alumni were students as well. The donations many of them made are a strong representation of this give and take mentality, where they gave back to the University that enabled them to be in the positions they are in today.

I encourage the student body to recognize the opportunities we are provided with on campus and engage and give back to the community. This is all possible by participating in events such as iHelp, which is a day of service organized by the Student Alumni Ambassadors, or utilizing the Office of Volunteer Programs which connects students with volunteer opportunities throughout the community. 

What we do here as students wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the all the support we receive from the campus, Champaign-Urbana community and many others. In the rush and stress of the student life, it’s important to step back and simply give back to show thanks for the opportunities that surround us.

Matt is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him @MatthewPasquini.