Why my alumni giving goes to Howard University, a school I never went to

I made my alumni giving contributions today – to my high school, college, and MBA program, and also to the Howard University Gift a Senior campaign.

I’m not a Howard alum. But I am from Washington DC, and in particular I grew up when DC was the murder capital, when just about every local story was bad. Our mayor was convicted on drug charges, and Congress took away financial home rule.

But Howard was admired. One of the top historically black colleges & universities, it had taught a miles-long list of notables, from public servants like Thurgood Marshall to artists like Toni Morrison. Howard was a demonstration that DC could lead, that its citizens weren’t just the owners of Taxation Without Representation license plates and the victims of those murders.

I’ve been sad over the last decade to read about Howard’s multiple crises of leadership and finances, and not sure how to lend support. Then in 2015 I read about the Gift a Senior campaign.

Gift a Senior grants money to students who have fulfilled their graduation requirements but can’t graduate because they owe money to the university. It might be a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. The problem isn’t getting smaller – in 2015 “180 prospective graduates owed about $380,000,” and this year the campaign page talks about 224 seniors with balances totalling $1.35 million.

And so I’ve given Gift a Senior the same amount I’ll pay on my student loans this month.

I have student loans because I invested in my future career by going back to school. I’m grateful I can afford to pay them, and sorry I can’t make it to either my high school (20th) or business school (5th) reunions this year. I’ve been fortunate, and I remember the DC I grew up with. Gift a Senior is my investment in the future of DC, and of Howard University, and of a Bison whose story I might not hear but who will write a better one because they can graduate next weekend.

I hope to wipe out more of my loans this year, so I’ll have to find a new metric for how much to give next year. But my alumni giving will again go to my own schools, plus to Gift a Senior.

About Jennifer Berk

I'm an analytics and data leader with a marketing and product mindset. I like online newspapers, science fiction and fantasy, and ugly fish.
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