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Student Philanthropy Month Puts Spotlight on Giving Back to UC Merced and Community

March 23, 2023
A montage of photos shows students at UC Merced.
Student Philanthropy Month empowers students to raise funds for different projects and take part in community service activities.

For the second year, UC Merced's Student Alumni Association (SAA) and Office of Alumni Relations have partnered to host Student Philanthropy Month in March. The monthlong initiative is dedicated to building a culture of philanthropy and awareness at UC Merced.

Through events and fundraising opportunities, students have learned how philanthropy affects the campus, community and beyond. Following the initiative's success in 2022, organizers have been excited to see increased interest this year.

"Philanthropy doesn't only refer to the act of giving money. Each week, students have been engaged in events and opportunities with different themes — leading, serving, giving and engaging — to understand how much of a positive impact one can make by also sharing expertise, time and experiences," Executive Director of Annual and Special Giving Amber Flores said. "It's been amazing to see even more students participating in Student Philanthropy Month, and our hope is that they will one day give back in the same spirit as others have generously given to them."

Dinner for Champvocates

A "Dinner for Champvocates" March 2 helped kick off the monthlong celebration. More than 50 students attended the dinner at the UC Merced Conference Center, where they learned what philanthropy means and how they can engage in meaningful activities to give back.

Three people sit behind a table at the "Champvocates Dinner."UC Merced alumni were on hand to share the philanthropic work they have been involved in within the nonprofit sector, including Ahmed "Mike" Alamari ('12) and Keith Ellis ('12).

Alamari graduated with bachelor's degrees in economics and management. After working with the California Association of Agricultural Laborers and noticing that the vast number of regulations affecting farm labor contractors correlated to payroll processing, he opened his company, Precise Payroll & Bookkeeping in Madera, to address that need.

Since 2019, Alamari has supported and coordinated clothing drives, fundraisers, sponsorships for scholarships and more.

Ellis obtained bachelor's degrees in political science and management at UC Merced. He also holds master's and doctoral degrees in education from other institutions. He is the treasurer of the Alumni Associations of the University of California and an Alumni Regent-designate; he will serve as an Alumni Regent for one year beginning July 1.

Ellis has been part of several boards and commissions, and has also volunteered for multiple organizations, including the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

Community advocate, educator and paralegal Michael Baldwin served as the keynote speaker for the "Champvocates" event. He discussed how after serving 26 years of a double-life sentence, he was released with a specific goal to use his life experience to bring healing and understanding to traumatized and marginalized groups, as well as equity to the community.Michael Baldwin is seen at a podium.

"There comes a point in all of our lives where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river, and we need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in," he told the crowd.

Baldwin started MBS Consultants to educate and train teachers, law enforcement, civil servants and paraprofessionals to be the bridge between those who serve and those in need of services. He also founded Legacy Alliance Outreach, a nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of disadvantaged youth. Formerly incarcerated individuals are also trained to share their experiences with young people.

"It's been revolutionary to be able to teach people that we can give more than just money to issues; sometimes we have to give up our perspective in order to hear other people's perspectives," Baldwin said. "As a result of that, I felt it was important to do more than just educate our educators and law enforcement; if we don't do anything for our youth, then we haven't solved anything."

Attendees of "Dinner for Champvocates" pose for a photo.
"Dinner for Champvocates" featured several speakers, including UC Merced alumni, who shared details about the philanthropic work they have done in the nonprofit sector.

Crowdfunding for a Cause

A major part of Student Philanthropy Month is guiding students on how to fundraise and use a crowdfunding platform to raise money and generate support for their student-focused projects. This year, six student organizations that applied were approved to participate.

Alumni Relations staff met with each group and provided them with training, a fundraising fundamentals toolkit and access to a custom crowdfunding giving page.

"Creating a plan with realistic goals, identifying donors, communicating needs and using multiple marketing platforms were among the skills we shared with the participating students," Associate Director of Alumni Relations Jessica "JaeJae" Julian said. "Their goal now is to use that toolkit to explain to potential donors why their projects are so meaningful and deserving of support."

The student organizations and accompanying projects include:

  • Ballet Folklorico de UCM looks to raise $1,000 for folklorico attire such as dresses, charro suits and hairpieces. The funds would also be used to help pay for other equipment and supplies.
  • Black Student Coalition (BSC) has a goal to raise $1,000 to buy uniforms and materials, pay for travel to performances and fund a step coach.
  • Bobcat Band hopes to raise $1,000 to purchase new instruments, including tenor and baritone saxophones, sousaphones, trombones and percussion instruments.
  • Martial Arts Club looks to raise $1,000 to buy protective equipment, including Muay Thai pads and sparring gear, as well as cleaning supplies.
  • Pilipinx American Alliance (PAA) seeks to raise $850 for cultural clothing and equipment needed in order to perform at their events.
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) is working to raise $600 for the "Manitos" program, which provides mentorship opportunities for its members to support each other to achieve personal, academic and career goals.

Students are encouraged to reach out to fellow Bobcats, alumni, family, friends and community members to help them achieve their fundraising goals. All six projects will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $1,000 each) through the generosity of the Scholar Transformational Impact Fund provided by Student Affairs.

Anyone who would like to make a contribution to any of the projects can do so online before March 31 at 11:59 p.m. PDT.

Bobcats Give Back

"Bobcats Give Back: Day of Service" was held on Saturday, March 18, at Lake Yosemite. About 70 UC Merced students, alumni and staff members spent the morning picking up litter and pulling weeds.

The lake and park were chosen once again for the cleanup project because they're a short walk from campus.

"UC Merced students, staff and faculty often visit Lake Yosemite, so it makes sense to help beautify this space," Community Engagement Center (CEC) Director Vernette Doty said. "This is a simple way that we can give back to our community, and you can immediately see the impact of direct service."

At the end of the cleanup, volunteers were thanked with free UC Merced T-shirts, pizza and other snacks. The event was hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations and SAA in partnership with CEC.

More Than Fun and Games

As the festivities wrap up at the end of the month, the campus community is invited to be part of the audience for Game Night. The event will be held Thursday, March 23, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Dr. Vikram and Priya Lakireddy Grand Ballroom.

While there won't be any $1 bids or massive wheel spins, there will be a chance to witness Bobcats taking on other Bobcats in a variety of games. The contestants will be members of the student organizations participating in the fundraising initiative. The winning group will be eligible to receive a grand prize to support their project.

Additional information about Student Philanthropy Month can be found on the initiative's webpage.