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Amidst the Recession, Janelle Summerville Rocks Out

This piece appeared jointly on Her Campus and Huffington Post College as part of a partnership with the Huffington Post to explore how college students are giving back on campus in response to the recession.

Recent Wake Forest grad Janelle Summerville has a lot to celebrate. This year, she got accepted into University of Virginia’s five-year PhD program in Clinical Psychology, she got engaged to a fellow Wake student, and — oh — she raised close to $9,000 for starving Kenyan children.  

Last winter Summerville headed the week-long Wake Up! events to raise money for Kenya Kids Can!, a program which provides meals for Kenyan children at just $2.50 per month. The events marked the culmination of her month-long, research intensive trip to Kenya the summer before last. There, she witnessed the implications of life in a country where more than half of the population resides beneath the poverty line.   

“I saw thousands of starving kids at the feeding schools,” Summerville said. “Some of them couldn’t even sit up to study, they were so hungry.”  When she returned to Wake Forest in late August, she couldn’t help but think that any student could make a difference. For less than a Starbucks latte in the ZSR Library, Wake students could feed a Kenyan child for an entire month. It didn’t matter that the recession was forcing Americans everywhere to seriously cut back — all students needed to give up was their morning coffee.

It was this simple but powerful “Less Than a Latte” idea that guided Summerville’s Wake Up! events. As a psychology major and humanitarian activist, Summerville’s studies and campus activities allowed her to evaluate how people decide to donate to charities. According to her, it can be hard to get through to students — especially with the added economic pressure of the recent crisis.  

“I wanted to do something that fit into an ordinary student’s schedule — something casual, something accessible,” said Summerville.

And she did just that. Summerville held events in campus hotbeds, providing student entertainment, as well as food and drink specials, to lure in her peers. Even though Wake students may have been struggling due to last year’s rise in tuition, she figured they might like to contribute the small handful of change that would make a difference.  

Not surprisingly, Summerville and her team raised nearly $3,000 more than expected. In exchange for their donations, students received handmade, one-of-a-kind Kazuri bead jewelry designed by Wake Up! committee members.

“It’s weird that it’s over,” said Summerville, who spent over a semester organizing the events last year.  

However, she has a lot to keep her busy in the future. After the Wake Up! closing ceremony, Summerville’s long-term boyfriend popped the question. The self-proclaimed not-sappy girl had no idea that he had long been planning the proposal, and had even asked her parents’ permission months before. After tying the knot, Summerville will complete her doctorate degree at the University of Virginia.  

Wake Up! will continue as a student-run committee focusing on a different global issue and respective charity each year.  Next year’s issue?  “I haven’t quite gotten there yet,” she laughs.

For more information, visit http://kenyakidscan.org/

*Photo credit to Wake Forest sophomore Lauren Martinez.  See more of her work here.

Kelsey Garvey is a junior English major at Wake Forest University. Her upbringing in Connecticut, otherwise known as country club land, inspired her to write in order to escape and locate something more. Writing has also acted as her outlet to dabble in subjects far beyond her my intellectual capacity: art, culture, design, fashion, photography, and music. Other than reading Vogue and Vanity Fair cover-to-cover, Kelsey enjoys frequenting the blogosphere, speaking franglais in daily conversation, and laughing at her own pathetic jokes. Feel free to email her with any questions or comments.
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