When Jason Payne first heard he was going to be a recipient of the Choose to Give scholarship he was not only excited but said he felt the Lord was really taking care of his family.
Payne, a senior studying neuroscience, plans on pursuing a doctorate in neuroscience, continuing research and ultimately would like to teach at the university level. He said the funding he received was integral to his educational future.
“Money has always been tight for my wife and I, and we have made a lot of sacrifices in order to be able to stay out of debt,” Payne said. “This scholarship is a huge financial relief. I am very grateful that I was selected to receive this scholarship that is enabling me to stay in school and helping relieve some of the financial tensions.”
Many BYU students like Payne are beneficiaries of Choose to Give need-based scholarships. According to their website, Choose to Give is a student-run fundraising campaign where 100 percent of the money raised is used to benefit students. Choose to Give’s mission is to teach and encourage participation in philanthropy at BYU through students helping students. Choose to Give represents the efforts and sacrifices made by literally thousands of students each year.
“I know that money is tight for most students here at BYU and that even sacrificing a small amount of money can be a huge leap of faith,” Payne said. “The individuals who receive the charity of the group as a whole cannot express in words the difference that it makes in their own life.”
According to Choose to Give Director Tanya Floyd, 47 students have received half or full tuition scholarships from Choose to Give since 2000. These need-based scholarships are given to those individuals the BYU Scholarship office deem as qualified candidates for financial assistance.
Trenton Dyer, a senior from Littleton, Colo., studying landscape management, remembers periodically donating to Choose to Give and always felt giving was important but never knew exactly what Choose to Give was until he became a recipient of the Students Helping Students scholarship.
“At BYU and in the LDS faith, giving is kind of part of what we believe. Whether giving of your time or money, there are always little ways to serve,” Dyer said. “I honestly didn’t connect the scholarship with those little booths Choose to Give sets up every year inviting students to donate.”
Since receiving the scholarship, Dyer said he has felt a greater sense of peace.
“It has really just given my family peace of mind knowing that we will get through whatever comes our way,” Dyer said. “Since we were married almost three years ago, there have been multiple times in which we weren’t sure how we were going to pay for everything, be it school expenses, broken down cars, a new baby, etc., but every time, we have had some blessing to get us through.”
Despite economic hardships, Choose to Give has steadily increased the amount of Students Helping Students scholarships. Compared to the figures provided by Choose to Give in 2005 when only three scholarships were given, last year’s week-long campaign in March raised enough to fund 14 scholarships.
“Students and parents are hurting from the economy, and everyone is feeling the squeeze,” Floyd said.
According to Choose to Give’s website, during the week-long campaign in March, student donors are presented with three different funds to donate to. The Students Helping Students scholarship fund is used to award scholarships to students who have great financial need and may not otherwise be able to attend BYU. The second fund, College Priorities, allows student donors to indicate the college to which they would like to donate. These funds are distributed under the discretion of the deans, who take into consideration student needs like student mentorships, study abroad opportunities and funding for research. The last fund is the President’s Priorities where the funds raised give President Cecil O. Samuelson and the Board of Trustees the flexibility to use funds where the need is greatest in the university.
Choose to Give relies on a week-long campaign to raise money and awareness. From the beginning of the fall semester a group of 18 students prepare for the the campaign. Students apply for various positions on the executive committee. The committee is led by an executive chair,who oversees the chairs over marketing, publicity, recruiting, training, operation, activities and college relations. All of these positions work towards raising awareness and educating their fellow students.
“Some students couldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the generosity of BYU students who donate through Choose to Give,” Floyd said. “The events generate attention and create awareness by educating the students of why they should donate and who they are donating too.”
Members on the executive committee see first hand how their six months of planning helps others.
Olivia Tateoka, 20, from Burley, Idaho, studying biology, formerly the publicity vice-chair, was able to see how grateful and appreciative the recipients were when she interviewed and filmed past scholarship recipients for a Choose to Give promotional video.
“I never realized how great it would feel to give back to BYU,” Tateoka said. “To see others reap the rewards of your work and how appreciative and grateful they are is awesome.”
Choose to Give marketing vice-chair BreeAnn Moore, a humanities major from Payson, said her work with Choose to Give provided a new outlet for her talents among other benefits.
“Serving on the executive committee gave me confidence to apply my talents elsewhere and I made tons of new friends,” Moore said.
Although the money raised is important, the Choose to Give program places a high priority on student participation. Although Choose to give raised less money overall last year, student donation increased by one percent, despite the economic hardships facing many students.
“The numbers are all about helping others, and people helped are more important to us than money,” said John Valdez, student executive chair of Choose to Give.