Our professor asked us, “What do you know about this class?”After all the anticipation and lengthy discussions the group of us honors students had prior to this class, the only sentence we could string together to call a response was, “We…get to give away money?”
Though we are honors students, we too fall short of words at times. There should have been no uncertainty in our answer. We all knew very well that last spring when this class was taught, the students were given the opportunity to give away $20,000. Literally.
This course teaches students about giving in a way that we have never experienced. This is an opportunity for a handful of ramen-eating college students to make a significant contribution to their community with the help of an anonymous donor. We will quickly learn that giving away money, for those that have it to give, is not as simple as it sounds.
Our task is to find charities and non-profit organizations in the Tarrant County area deserving of donations. We will go behind the scenes to discover as much about the organization as possible, acting like modern day Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys digging up all the good and bad we can find. As much as all of us would like our charity of interest to receive our donation, we can only give to a small number of organizations in the community, splitting the money between them however we would like. Our search will be whittled down from at least one hundred to no more than five or six, through discussion and debates held in class throughout the semester.
As our professor continued to introduce the course, we listened and realized how confusing and stressful this process could potentially be. Twenty thousand dollars…can’t I just turn that into two million lucky pennies and put a smile on someone’s face every time they find a shiny Abe Lincoln looking up at them from the parking lot?
As I sit there, daydreaming about how we will split up the money, I hear a brief pause in what my professor is saying about this donor we know nothing about. I recognized this pause as one meant to add emphasis to a statement on the verge of being spoken and redirected my attention. “How students handled this course last spring helped the donor make the decision to take the idea to other universities. Now courses similar to this one are taught in eight schools–including TCU–across the country, from two Ivy League instituations to a West Coast top-five university. This year… (emphatic pause)…you will be giving away $100,000.”
Ten million pennies. One thousand 100 dollar bills. One hundred thousand packs of gum. Almost five Mini Coopers. A college education. A home. A chance to change lives.
For the second time in an hour, we were short of words.