Students to leave their paw print

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Students to leave their paw print

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

Kate Koenig | Visual Editor

By Danni Zhou / Staff Writer

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A group of this year’s graduating seniors is leaving a gift that will help generations of Pitt students.

The group, called Project Paw Print, aims to help rising sophomores, juniors and seniors cover school expenses outside of tuition through a Senior Legacy Student Resource Fund, an annual donation-based fund the Office of Institutional Advancement started in the fall. Seven seniors, whom the Office of Institutional Advancement chose through a faculty and staff nomination process, are working to collect donations from Pitt students and other community members as a way for the class of 2016 to leave its mark at Pitt.

Project Paw Print members said the fund will serve as this year’s class gift to the University. But with the Fund, this year’s graduating seniors will leave a gift that sophomores, juniors and seniors can use through the foreseeable future for educational expenses, according to Ben Schultz, a member of the group.

The group, which the Office will staff with more students next year, will continue to collect donations for future years’ funds. Although future students can benefit from this gift, it will not serve as the class gift for the Class of 2017.

To begin the group’s kick-off week on Feb. 24, Schultz and Nadia Pacheco Amaro, both seniors and members of the group, tabled for donations near Einstein’s in Posvar Hall.

With only one donation collection under their belt, Schultz said he is optimistic seniors and other community members will want to help underclassmen succeed.

“We worked to identify the needs of students and came up with the idea to raise funds. The Senior Legacy Student Resource Fund is sustainable,” Schultz said. “It’s not something that can be used up in one year and then be forgotten. The fund can continue to grow and help students year after year.”

Once the Senior Legacy Resource Fund reaches $10,000, any rising sophomore, junior or senior can apply for the awards that fall semester and will receive the funds the following spring.

According to Annual Programs Coordinator for the Office of Institutional Advancement Alexandra Rigby, who is helping to advise the group, the group chose $10,000 so that it would have the freedom to fund multiple students if there are several qualified applicants.

Rigby said the amount given to each student and the number of students receiving awards will vary year to year based on the applicants. Because the project is currently in the preliminary stages, the group has not yet determined specific applicant qualifications and does not have an estimate of when it will reach $10,000.

Rigby will lend advice, but is leaving most of the decisions regarding events to gather donations up to the students.

Other schools, like Villanova and Notre Dame, have similar student groups that focus on a class gift, but not all the schools focus on raising money for a resource fund like Project Paw Print.

The project’s current efforts are to publicize Project Paw Print and its goal by using social media, tabling and hosting events, though the group has not yet scheduled dates for future events.

According to Pacheco Amaro, a member of Project Paw Print, the group got off to a strong start after its first tabling event, but has not counted the donations yet.

For now, the group is focusing on holding on several small events to gather donations. The group has not decided when it will make applications available or what semester students will start receiving awards.

According to Rigby, the Project Paw Print senior members have set a goal of 35 percent participation from the senior class. To get more students involved and collect donations, Schultz said the group is planning campus events, including setting up a table near where seniors go to pick up their gowns.

The class of 2016 will be primarily responsible for raising the funds, but Project Paw Print is encouraging all members of the Pitt community to donate. According to the Pitt Giving website, the group is hoping seniors will donate to help younger students follow in their “paw prints” and continue the Pitt legacy.

“Not only will this fund help students afford educational expenses, but it’s also an opportunity for students to give back by donating themselves. We really wanted to find a way to pay it forward so that this can support students for years to come,” Pacheco Amaro said.

According to Rigby, there will be an application available within the Student Affairs Office once the group raises enough money to fund the first set of awards. Student Affairs will review the applications and determine the recipients based on the quality of their responses to the application questions.

If Student Affairs chooses two applicants, for instance, the award amounts will be higher than if 10 applicants are chosen.

To ensure Project Paw Print will carry on past this semester, the group will host shadow opportunities for interested underclassmen to learn how current members are raising money.

“Although I will be reaching out to faculty, staff and other campus leaders soon [about recruiting new students], providing shadow opportunities is a projection into the future for this program and may not happen [this semester],” Rigby said.

Katie McGovern, a sophomore majoring in African Studies and American Sign Language who plans to donate a small amount to the fund, applauds the program for allowing students to help one another.

“We know the struggles of attending a university, so it’s our duty to inform and equip other prospective students in any way that we can,” McGovern said.

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