A Look at 3 buildOn College Chapters

Our Global Chapters program, if you can believe it, is turning a year old. We currently have 30 chapters, and we’re hosting a private Global Chapters Conference for chapter leaders this August in Sausalito, California. Unlike buildOn’s afterschool service programs, chapters advocate for literacy and raise money to sponsor the construction of schools in buildOn’s project countries. Our Student Chapters are at high schools and universities, and we have Regional Chapters for passionate adults who want to get involved with buildOn. This month we asked three chapters what it was like pioneering their groups on campus. What made these chapters successful was they had dedicated members who learned to work with other connected groups on their campus to accomplish their goals.

Lewis and Clark College – Oregon

This group raised $27,000 to build an entire school in Malawi, and raised enough money to send 14 people to travel there to build it. Part of the group’s success raising money was making it a team effort. The members allied with active students, community members and college alumni who were all committed to raising money.

Sean Cochrane, 22, a high school buildOn alumnus from the Bay Area, founded the group his senior year of college. He approached the campus’ Center for Career and Community Engagement about endorsing them and helping get their group approved by the school’s administration. Now there are 21 members in the chapter, and 14 of those went to Malawi, including the group’s president Alyssa Ransbury, a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark College. “It was really easy to fit buildOn in with Lewis and Clark because 70 percent of students study abroad,” she said. The group recruited students at the international dormitory and through multicultural groups. They hosted several fundraisers, including an auction dinner with prizes donated by local businesses; and every week they set up tables at cafes, libraries and public places around Portland to promote their campaign. Now that the members are comfortable throwing events and raising money, the goal for next year is to build a school in Haiti!

University of California, Berkeley – California

Seven of the ten members of the University of California, Berkeley group went to build a school in Matagalpa, Nicaragua in June with three members of the Barnard CollegeColumbia University chapter. The money raised from the trek came from letter-writing campaigns, and the group raised $1,000 by winning a video competition organized by the university. The members created a stop-animation video promoting literacy that won after receiving the most views on YouTube and likes on Facebook.

The group’s president, Iris Wong, has learned a lot about planning and time management from starting the group. “I would say the leadership group is the core of starting a chapter,” said Wong, as senior at Berkeley. “A great leadership team needs to be organized and plan way ahead for events. A month goes by so quickly with school and extracurricular activities and internships. I didn’t know that when I was in high school.”

University of Oregon

Antonia DeMichiel, University of Oregon senior and another buildOn alumnus from the Bay Area, has a lot of good ideas. She started networking with people at the University of Oregon when she was a freshman in 2009, with the idea of eventually starting a buildOn chapter. Then Tom Silverman, buildOn’s Global Chapter Manager, approached her in early 2011 about starting a chapter, and it took off. At that point, she already had connections with the campus’ Holden Leadership Center, which supports the group by booking locations to host events and getting grants. Before hosting the initial meeting, DeMichiel made announcements in front of lecture classes and sent out emails to listervs at school.

DeMichiel recommends reading up on buildOn and understanding the mission to talk about it with conviction before starting a chapter. “Just being able to hear the passion I have for the organization made people interested in it,” she said. This year the group raised $15,000 to build a school in Nicaragua in July with high school chapter Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix, Arizona. The group reached their fundraising goal by hosting regular donation-based yoga sessions and bi-weekly bake sales, and selling pumpkins on campus last fall. One of the most successful fundraising projects was partnering with a restaurant, The Humble Beagle Pub, for a Dinner 4 Dollars fundraiser, where a portion of the proceeds went back to the chapter. Next year the group is planning a bike-a-thon fundraiser called BikeOn.

Learn how you can start a buildOn chapter at your school by visit our buildOn Chapters page.