With 1,400 United Way offices across the country,
it's tough to be unique. It's tough to be different, to have that
one element that distinguishes you from the rest. The Centre County
United Way found its distinctive feature in the 40,000 young men and
women who migrate to our community every year.
Believe it or not, the Student United Way at Penn State is the only
recognized student-run United Way organization in the country. While
we love to boast about our claim to fame, our vision is to start
other Student United Way chapters across the country. Students are
becoming increasingly civic-minded and Student United Way creates an
opportunity for students to make a great difference.
Students across the country serve as temporary community members
while at college. At Penn State, these students live in the
surrounding communities, support local businesses and even pay local
parking tickets. The goal is to take these students and give them
the opportunity to give back to these communities.
The Penn State Student United Way works closely with the Centre
County United Way and its 39 agencies. The first objective is to
assist in fundraising. These efforts include different events
including benefit concerts at downtown bars and spaghetti dinners
for other students.
The biggest fundraiser, however, is the spinoff of the annual Trash
to Treasure sale. Seeing the success of the large Trash to Treasure
sale in May, the Student United Way jumped on the idea of hosting a
smaller sale after the fall semester. This sale has seen great
success during the past few years, growing to raise more than
$5,000. The members of Student United Way take on a majority of the
responsibilities and have the opportunity to coordinate with
different departments within Penn State and work with other
community members outside of the Centre County United Way.
Student United Way also focuses on service in the community. While
the 39 agencies supported by the Centre County United Way appreciate
the funding, they also need helping hands. The second goal of the
Student United Way is to provide these resources to the community.
When the Centre County United Way holds an event involving service,
it can always count on plenty of Penn State students to volunteer.
These events include the recent Day of Caring, where many Student
United Way members as well as Penn State athletes teamed up to do
service work all across campus.
Then, there is the Jeans for Teens program, which provides students
an opportunity to really get involved and make an immediate impact
in a child's life. The program pairs up Penn State students with
local children who are too old for Toys for Tots but too young to
get a job. The pair spend an afternoon shopping together. It is
amazing to see how much of a difference two hours of time can make
in these kid's lives.
The relationship between the Centre County United Way and the Penn
State Student United Way is obviously mutually beneficial, but even
more importantly it benefits the people of the community. The value
of getting students involved in the community is truly priceless. It
also makes it likely that former Student United Way members will
volunteer in the communities where they eventually live and work. We
may have to change the claim of having the only Student United Way,
but it will be worth it simply to see the success of the Penn State
Student United Way spread across the country.
Bryan P. King is a senior majoring in marketing, president of the
Penn State Student United Way and a native of Centre County. For
more information on Centre County United Way, visit