It was 1 June. A cold and dreary morning with a low of 11 degrees. The first day of winter. But it was so much more than that. It was the first day I gave up fried chicken… to transform five students’ lives!
The power of education – when accessible
I believe that everyone has the right to a quality education. But sometimes financial challenges can be a huge obstacle for some who have the most to gain in life from higher education.
They have the capability, the dreams and aspirations to better their lives, but don’t have the funds to pay the bills. In fact, financial barriers are a common reason why students drop out of their studies.
I was one of these students in my first and second year and recognise how difficult it can be to work and study.
Bursaries were the foundation to my success
I recently graduated from a Bachelor of International Studies and was honoured to receive the Chancellor’s medal at my ceremony.
When I started university, I never expected to receive an award of this calibre. In fact, as the first-in-family from a low-income background, I had no idea what to expect but knew I was here to broaden my horizons.
Relocating to the Sunshine Coast for university – and living out of home for the first time – I realised that living was expensive. It wasn’t just the rent, electricity, and transport, but also water, internet, and education-related costs like textbooks, stationery, and a laptop (when my old one broke).
During this time, I learnt a lot, like figuring out how to make gourmet Mi Goreng noodles – you just add a fried egg and cheese – and I discovered the cheapest (and tastiest) fast food – the one with the Colonel! But amongst these grand discoveries, I learnt that I actually needed to work more to meet the costs of study.
I was so fortunate to receive a $1,000 bursary in my first and second year. It was truly life changing. It meant I could work fewer hours in peak assessment periods and access volunteer leadership opportunities on campus.
These opportunities were transformative, broadening my networks and skillsets, and were super valuable when I applied for the prestigious Australian Government scholarship – the New Colombo Plan – which I got. This scholarship supported me to live, study, and work in Japan for nearly two years.
And now I’ve graduated with international experience, a Chancellor’s medal (and a University medal!), leadership experience, and an extensive network.
The bursaries I received set me up for success and allowed me to establish a solid foundation for the rest of my university journey and beyond.
This is something I wanted to pay forward for USC’s annual Giving Day, G-Day.
'Frying' it forward
As education truly transformed my life and direction, I wanted to maximise the success of a larger range of students who might be struggling to make ends meet.
So, I said yes to being a peer-to-peer fundraiser for G-Day in May this year and set my target of $4,000 – the equivalent of two Study Support Bursaries.
Now, I’ve seen those fundraisers who ask for donations to support a great cause and in return, they walk, jog, run or swim long distances.
I might be a Walker (pun intended) but I wanted to do something different and sacrifice something unique that demonstrated my dedicated passion for this cause – and to make it a bit fun for everyone!
For me, that was fried chicken. So, I made a pledge – for every $1,000 raised, I would give up one month of the Colonel’s fried chicken.
I’m calling this ‘frying’ it forward.
I gave a small donation, sent emails out to my network asking they support my fundraising page, posted an image on my social media channels and in four days I had reached my first milestone - $1,000.
Updates and reminders followed and 10 days later I met my milestone of $2,000. The next day I made it to $3,000.
And then 5 days later – on Giving Day – I made it to my target of $4,000 at midday!
At that point, I decided we could further. So, to make it even more fun I announced my bonus round. I pledged to give up ALL forms of fried chicken for 5 months if we could reach $5,000.
This motivated people. I had friends from the wider community – including other universities across Australia and one in the United States – donate as they knew how much I loved fried chicken.
And by 8pm, I made it to $5,000 (and a total of $5,210!) with the support of 96 unique donors.
Rest in pieces fried chicken.
Giving (and sacrificing) feels great
From this experience I learnt about the power of community and the USC network.
How incredible is it that 96 people from the wider community supported such a great cause to stand behind our most in-need students to reach their dreams and aspirations?!
I know a few contributed because they really wanted me to go without fried chicken for a while but, hey, it all went to a good cause.
And thanks to the gift matching of the Scott Williams Foundation, our $5,210 raised essentially became $10,420 - the equivalent of FIVE Study Support bursaries, changing the lives of five students!
Various local businesses, friends from six other universities, past USC bursary recipients (both alumni and current students), local philanthropists, and USC staff all contributed to my campaign.
And if you are into stats, out of the more than 620 donors and $268,000 raised in total:
- We represent 41% of all unique donors who gave to Student Support.
- We also represent 15% of all unique donors on G-Day across all three giving areas.
- We have contributed 4% of total funds to Student Support.
- The amount we generated on G-Day represents 2% of all funds raised across the entire G-Day campaign!
It was truly a community effort. Whether a donor only had $5, $20, $50, or even $100 to spare, every dollar made a difference.
And so, on 1 June, on this cold and dreary morning, I gave up all fried chicken as promised.
Now if you’re wondering how people can keep tabs on me, you would be pleased to know that every time I have lunch, people check that what I’m eating is not fried chicken. And I’m glad everyone cares!
I would strongly encourage everyone to stand behind this cause next year – either as a fundraiser or donating what is possible for you.
Every dollar truly made a difference. And I’m looking forward to those five students succeeding like I did after receiving my bursaries.
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