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K-State Today

January 28, 2015

K-State Proud: More than a T-shirt

Submitted by Hayli Morrison

Spending $130,000 would be no problem for most, but it's painstakingly difficult for a small group of K-State students.

This is the Student Opportunity Awards committee. Here, it's 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and seven students in a wood-paneled administrative office discuss whether to award $900 so a K-State senior can repair the car in which he lives. There are stories of a student whose mom was recently laid off, one with $60,000 in student loan debt, and another working 45 hours weekly to support family in another city.

Through tedious application reviews, this weekly committee decides who will benefit from the annual K-State Proud fundraising campaign. Though the campaign is best known for its iconic T-shirts seen across campus each year, K-State Proud coordinators — all members of the K-State Student Foundation — repeatedly emphasize it is "more than a T-shirt."

Nothing makes this clearer than the awards committee meeting, where members erupt in cheers as they unanimously agree to fund their fellow student's car repairs.

As other applications are denied or postponed to gather more information, the mood turns somber. Young faces are deep in thought and discussions drift between emotion and logic as they consider good financial stewardship and the consequences of their vote.

Student Opportunity Awards provide one-time help in emergency situations, so factors include outstanding tuition balance, course load, student loan debt, plans for future self-sufficiency, and immediacy and permanency of the need. Tuition, child care, car repairs, textbooks — everything is fair game if it's an obstacle to completing the degree.

When observing the entire award-winning process of students helping students, one cannot help but feel K-State Proud...and it really is more than a T-shirt.

K-State Proud Week is Feb. 23-27. Read more about related events and how you can get a K-State Proud T-shirt and support Student Opportunity Awards.