Gift that keeps giving illustrates Elizabethtown College’s dedication to service
With a College motto of “Educate for Service” it’s no wonder Elizabethtown’s senior class gift benefited far more than E-town’s campus community.
The Class of 2017’s gift to the College—or, in this case, on behalf of the College—was not a residence hall renovation or computer lab update. In fact, it can’t be found anywhere on the 200-acre campus. Instead, it’s more than 4,000 miles away in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.
The senior class gift is a community well that now provides water to almost 300 residents in this west coast African town at the tip of the Bankasoka River estuary.
The traditional purpose of a senior class gift, said Class of 2017 President Ramon Rios III, is to give back to the College but, after examining previous years’ donations, which include clocks, benches, trees and a rooftop garden, Rios said the class council “wanted to do something different.” Instead of giving to the campus, itself, Rios said, they decided to “give back to a community that really needed it.”
They worked with The Water Project, a nonprofit that hires locals to construct wells. The gift not only brings water to this impoverished community, the construction also helps stimulate the economy. The Water Project’s goal is to not just build a well, but to stay and educate locals on water sanitation and safety. Rios called this the “cherry on top” and one of the reasons they chose to work through the organization.
Class Treasurer Tyler Latshaw shared Rios’ sentiment. Latshaw, who helped regulate the flow of money throughout the project, saw this as a refreshing idea for class gift. “I think that we can all understand the importance of education, especially when it’s serving others,” Latshaw said. “When we were raising money for the well, we weren’t necessarily the ones that went out and dug the well ourselves, but we made it happen.”
The student body raised a total of $5,444.82. This amount included charitable donations, which came from parents of students and faculty members. Rios and Latshaw both said they were heartened when College President Carl Strikwerda donated to the class in order to aid in the well construction.
A small, decorative fountain was installed on campus in the Baugher Student Center with a sign next to it containing information about the well in Sierra Leone. The money for the replica fountain was raised separately by the class.
Paige Weber, assistant director of the annual fund, guides E-town’s senior classes through class gift campaigns every year. She was thrilled to hear about the nonprofit and global reach of this year’s gift, she said. “It embodied the idea of ‘Educate for Service’ tenfold,” she said. Future Blue Jays will walk past the campus fountain and remember there is a working well in Africa.
Class President Rios said he is especially happy the project reflects Educate for Service. “We specifically chose this process to exemplify that motto, and to give back to a community who needed a resource—water, in this case—much, much more than the Elizabethtown Community needed a small decorative fountain on campus,” he said.
As for future class gifts, the hope is that students will follow in the Class of 2017’s footsteps.
“I think it’s going to catch on,” Weber said. “I think we’re going to see a little bit of a trend.”
Rios shared Weber’s sentiment. “I really hope that future class gifts follow a similar trend in not only giving something back to the College, but giving something to a community who truly needs something.”