The saying “paying it forward” is one most everyone has heard. According to Wikipedia, to “pay it forward” means to ask the beneficiary of a good deed to “repay” it to others instead of to the original benefactor. It is a good theory, but how many of us actually take it to heart? Well, for myself and 25 other students here at Mines, this saying has made a huge impact on our lives. The “pay it forward” concept has been started, and it is now an experiment of some sort, to see how far it can spread. The two people responsible for this spread are Mines Alum Hugh Harvey and his wife, Michelle.
When the Harveys decided to create a scholarship fund in 2009 with their first gift of $10 million, it was important to the couple that this fund be sustainable. We all know that no fund is truly endless, but the idea here is that the legacy will catch on among the scholars themselves. Through spreading their unique outlooks on philanthropy and humanity, the Harveys are effectively creating an epidemic of “pay it forward” syndrome that is transmitted through a small group of students known as the Harvey Scholars.
I remember receiving the application through email and just getting excited at the thought of it. I had already applied to so many scholarships that my patience was wearing thin. But as I read through the description of the program, it seemed perfect for me. My family is a huge part of my life, and when my aunt in New York heard that the prompt was about “paying it forward,” she sent me a copy of the movie “Pay It Forward.” The basic idea was that a little boy helped some people, and when they asked what he would like in return, his response was, “Just ‘pay it forward.’ Three big favors for three other people. That’s it.”
It seems like a simple concept, but these things are easier said than done. The movie gave me a great starting point, a real understanding of what it truly meant to “pay it forward.” Fast forward to April 2011 when I got a phone call informing me that I had been chosen as a Harvey Scholar. I was ecstatic, to say the least. I would not graduate with student loans! That was my first thought anyway, but after having met the Harveys and having been a part of the program for about two years now, my whole perspective has changed. I realize now that the program is equipping me with more than financial security. I have learned so much about selflessness and the contagiousness of philanthropy.
Through monthly luncheons and weekly chair meetings, the program has become an integral part of my life at Mines. Each scholar brings something new to the table. Every scholar is encouraged to use an enrichment grant to add to the academic, professional, and personal aspects of our college experience. Whether that be through research opportunities, study abroad, or philanthropy in remote parts of the world, the opportunities are vast. The program also has a big focus on service. Different service events happen every month. Recently, the scholars served food at the Denver Rescue Mission and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. The scholars are also establishing a book scholarship to assist their fellow students at Mines.
The book scholarship itself came about in a very unique fashion. Every student has experienced the painful process of purchasing textbooks. We recognize how significant such a scholarship can be on an individual level. At the beginning of the year, an orientation event was held for the new freshman (all scholars were in attendance), to introduce them to the program. Towards the end of the event, Mrs. Harvey surprised all of the scholars, new and old, with a gift of $100 each, tasking each of us with the challenge of using the money to “pay it forward” in our own way. Her emphasis on the importance of responsible giving inspired some scholars to contemplate pooling their money together to increase its impact. A group of us then decided to use our money to create a book scholarship for other students on campus. We used the money from Mrs. Harvey in order to establish the initial funds, but we will continue to keep the fund sustainable by contacting local businesses and engineering firms to sponsor the scholarship for future years.
By processing applications and fundraising for future years, we hope to be truly involved in the nitty-gritty of philanthropy. It is amazing to see the program continue to grow and develop. I came into the program when there were only eleven scholars; five freshmen, four sophomores and three juniors. Each year only a few scholars were selected, but with another amazingly generous contribution of $11.2 million dollars, the largest gift in Mines history, the Harveys expanded the program to accept about fourteen new scholars each year. The program jumped from having twelve scholars to twenty-six in one year, and fourteen more will be accepted this spring. This will support 300 scholars over the next 25 years, with 60 enrolled at Mines at any given time.
As the program grows, the group is capable of doing more. This year, we became an official student organization and have developed chair positions held by student members that are geared toward expanding our reach within the community. The chairs work together to keep the program running smoothly and help develop the program for the future. The chairs coordinate internal affairs, community service events, scrapbooking and documentation, alumni/freshman relations, and organize the book scholarship. The goal of the program is to keep each scholar involved and to form a community of support for one another. As the program continues to grow, keeping everyone involved is essential, but difficult. The scholars are working to put a system in place that allows the Harvey Scholar Program to continue paying it forward.
It is an exciting time to be a part of the program as it continues to grow and develop. The Harveys have truly done something amazing. They have created a legacy of paying it forward at Mines and inspired each scholar to promote the “pay it forward” attitude.
Learn more and meet the scholars at giving.mines.edu/harveyscholars.
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