November 15, 2013
SIU students 'stay up for good'
SIU students are incredibly compassionate. Last year alone, they volunteered 34,000 hours of service and raised well over $150,000 in donations for worthy causes. Their efforts may not generate many headlines, but that’s OK, because they don’t seek notoriety. They simply enjoy making a positive difference on the campus and for friends and neighbors in Southern Illinois and beyond.
Tomorrow, I will join Rachel Slick and more than 400 of our students who plan to “stay up for good” – that’s the motto of the annual Up ‘til Dawn fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Rachel is executive director of the Up ‘til Dawn chapter on our campus, and she and the other members have been hard at work since the semester began, encouraging fellow students to support this worthy cause.
Although relatively new to our campus, Up ‘til Dawn draws amazing support. In just four short years, the SIU chapter has raised more than $200,000. During the Saturday night/Sunday morning event on campus, the students will celebrate a job well done. Their goal this year is $60,000.
Along with the students, I am looking forward to meeting 13-year-old Taylor Kyser, her mom Queen, and Taylor’s stepsister, Ashley, who is a sophomore at SIU. The family is from Peoria, and Taylor is undergoing treatment at St. Jude for a malignant bone tumor in her right hip.
“My main goal is to spread the mission of St. Jude,” Rachel said. “Hopefully, seeing Taylor and learning about the importance of the hospital in her life will have an impact on students.”
Now a sophomore with a double major in social work and Spanish and a member of our University Honors Program, Rachel, who is from Roscoe, Ill., visited several universities in her search for the right fit.
“Everyone talks about ‘that feeling’ when you visit colleges, but I didn’t think it existed,” Rachel said. “I kept touring campuses big and small. When I came here, I actually got that feeling, that it was real. Everyone was significantly nicer to me here than anywhere else. Instead of making me feel like I had to impress them, they made me feel like they were glad to see me.”
Once she arrived on campus, Rachel started hearing from “everyone” that she should get involved in campus activities to strengthen her resume. That is important, but it is something we emphasize because the connection between student involvement and academic success is well documented.
“To be honest, I did go to my first Up ‘til Dawn meeting to pad my resume,” she said. “But I realized it is a student organization that really makes a difference. I had heard about St. Jude, but I didn’t realize that families don’t pay for anything there. When I learned that, it really sparked a passion in me.”
She credits her family with inspiring her to help others.
“My mom’s a nurse and both of my parents are involved in our church,” Rachel said. “Throughout my life, I’ve had service opportunities. They instilled in me that you treat everyone like you treat your family.”
That spirit is among the many reasons big things are within reach for our students, who are passionate about transforming the lives of others.