Uni students unite to help a Uni grad

In October, Uni’s club ‘Students for a Better World’ raised $465 to send to Chinquapin Prep Academy, a 6-12 college preparatory school for gifted low-income and minority students in Highlands, Texas, a town in greater Houston. Chinquapin Prep suffered significant destruction in the floods from Hurricane Harvey at the end of August. In addition to damage to the building, the bookshelves in English teacher Sarah Yockey’s classroom were destroyed.

Yockey, who graduated from Uni in 2012, reached out to Steve Rayburn for assistance from the Uni community via email. Rayburn quickly passed the word along to S4BW’s leaders Anupam Sharma, Ha Tran, Ethan Chen and Sarah Matatov, and their sponsor, Rebecca Murphy (Merf).  The S4BW leaders enthusiastically took on Yockey’s predicament, arranging several different fundraisers in the hope of collecting enough money to buy Yockey new bookshelves and also to supplement her book collection for her class.  

S4BW first placed a number of donation boxes around the school, inviting students to give what they could to help a Uni alum and “a school like Uni”. The donation boxes “really showed the generosity of Uni students,” Sharma said, observing many people making donations from a few cents to several dollars.

S4BW’s main source of funds was their bake sale on October 4th. Members of the club sold fall-themed cookies, pie, cupcakes, apple-cider and more. Merf remarked that a lot of students chose to pay extra for their baked goods. Ultimately, the two projects raised $430, which they sent to Yockey. In a follow-up email to the Uni community, Chen announced that Yockey bought the shelves for $117 and supplemented her class’s reading material with the remaining money, buying 30 copies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for $280 and several Shakespeare-related writing guidebooks for $63.

Yockey and her class are already enjoying the new purchases. “They are a boost to our spirits and help us see hope in a room where things are still not quite back to the “pre-Harvey” normal. Whenever I look at them, I am reminded of the Uni community.” says Yockey. She adds that, as the flooding damage to the building was the immediate priority for the school, her class may not have had new bookshelves for quite some time if Uni students had not stepped in.

S4BW is new to Uni this year. The club evolved from Uni’s former Red Cross Club, with the goal of doing various kinds of service work that students care about, says Sharma.

With Yockey’s classroom attended to, S4BW moves on to new causes. The Sunday before Halloween, members of the club went trick-or-treating for canned food to donate to the local food pantry Friends of Champaign County. Later this winter season, they will be conducting a coat drive. Next semester, Merf adds, the club leaders will be taking proposals from members for subsequent projects.  

Sarah Yockey smiles beside the three bookshelves Uni students helped her to purchase