September 14, 2009

UA Students Give from the Heart to Fund Scholarships

School spirit has never been in short supply at The University of Alabama, and now some students have channeled that enthusiasm into a legacy more far-reaching than cheers and crimson-and-white shakers, by ensuring that more students have an opportunity to fulfill the dream of leaving school with a degree in hand.

The SPIRIT (Students Playing Important Roles in Tradition) campaign provides financial support for UA students who are the first in their family to go to college—currently about 17 percent of the student body, many facing financial and personal obstacles in attending the University. What separates the SPIRIT campaign from other scholarship programs is that students fund the scholarships, with all of the proceeds benefiting the recipients—an idea that immediately drew the attention of Wyatt Montgomery, organizer of this year’s SPIRIT campaign.

“Former SGA President Cason Kirby asked me to coordinate the campaign and I agreed, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. After I learned it was 100 percent for students, by students, I became excited myself,” Montgomery says.

A junior majoring in political science at UA, Montgomery not only took on the task of motivating his peers to give whatever amount they thought possible, but also recruited student volunteers to help with activities and events. One of those events, called “Swipe Week,” allowed students to support the campaign by swiping their ACTion cards at locations around campus.

“It was great to see so many students swipe their cards, giving one or two dollars for other students to attend UA,” says volunteer Heather Hannah. “I remember one woman who came to one of the locations during Swipe Week and talked about how it took her so long to save money for college. She didn’t want others to wait like she did.”

Rather than a monetary goal, the SPIRIT Campaign was simply about boosting student participation. The response surprised everyone involved, even Mary Lawhorn, coordinator of Annual Giving at UA and adviser to the campaign.

“I was overwhelmed by the number of students volunteering, the number of students giving, and the faculty and staff who supported us,” says Lawhorn. “It would not have been possible without everyone becoming involved.”

The fact that most UA students participated enthusiastically in the campaign surprised many, but not volunteer Jeff Grice. “Students are always low on cash, especially these days,” says Grice. “I’m sure the majority of students participated because once you get to Alabama and realize how great this experience really is, you feel a responsibility to share it with others.”


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