Philanthropy Focus: Students helping students

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Hannah Klass and Dominique Carella, Slug to Slug fundraisers (photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

When students ask her why they should give to UCSC's Undergraduate Scholarship Fund, Dominique Carella tells the story of her life.

"I explain that my parents didn't go to college, and that I'm relying on scholarships to go to UCSC," said Carella (Kresge '15, sociology). "I don't come from a lot of money, and being at UCSC is a blessing. I want people to know that."

Carella, part of the student philanthropic organization Slug to Slug, is one of seven student fundraisers who stand in the plaza near the Bay Tree Bookstore rain or shine, clipboard in hand, asking for student donations. The job is fraught with rejection. Passersby often ignore her, and she's heard her share of "no."

But when students stop to talk, she engages them: "I tell them: I'm a student, I'm paying tuition, and we need to help each other out," Carella said.

Clearly, the message is getting across. About a third of the students who chat with a Slug to Slug student fundraiser end up making a donation and giving back.

Founded in 2009, the Slug to Slug program works hard to instill a sense of "Slug Pride," while building a culture of philanthropy among students, educating them on the impact of private support, and teaching them the importance of staying connected and giving back after they graduate.

The organization believes in the principles of paying it forward, or the notion that "philanthropy is a positive feedback loop." Slug to Slug is different from other student philanthropy groups because it focuses on students supporting their own community, feeling gratitude, and making a conscious decision to support UCSC.

The fundraisers reach out to more than 1,200 students a week and accept donations of any amount. This school year, the students have raised about $3,000 toward undergraduate scholarships and programs on campus through more than 700 donors.

The organization blends generosity with fun. One of its main fundraisers is Slugfest, an annual benefit, and the biggest dance party on campus, with DJs, an appearance by Sammy the Slug himself, and more than 1,000 revelers supporting student scholarships.

Carella started her fundraising career in high school, where she designed and sold T-shirts to support her San Francisco charter school. Now she's building on those skills at Slug to Slug, which started out as a workstudy job. Now she co-manages the program with her friend and colleague, Hannah Klass (Kresge '15, sociology).

Klass also has a personal connection to the Undergraduate Scholarship Fund. She chose UCSC in part because of the financial aid she was offered there. "I don't receive a contribution from my family," she said. "I've worked two jobs for most of the time I've been at UCSC."

Klass runs education and outreach for the program, finding volunteers and representing Slug to Slug at community events.

"People say college students are broke and they won't give," said Klass, but she's learned to question this stereotype. Last year, she met a group of students at the plaza who said "hi" to her every day, but never donated. The last day of class, they walked over and handed her a $20 bill.

"So many students are ready to give. So many students on our campus are so supportive," said Klass. "Seeing that aspect of it has been amazing."