The idea started with a simple question: What if Highline College alumni each donated a little cash—just $10—to help fund student scholarships?
It’s a question Highline alumnus and current faculty member Dr. T.M. Sell posed a couple of years ago at an alumni event. But it wasn’t until he shared the idea with a fellow alum and Highline employee that it gained traction.
“Dr. Sell casually mentioned the idea to me during an employee luncheon. I don’t think he expected me to act on it,” said Laura Rosa, who is now in her ninth year working at the college, but only recently took over the reins of Highline’s alumni program. “His idea really had me thinking, what if we harnessed the collective power of our T-Bird nation. What would happen?”
With more than 350,000 students having attended Highline during the past 55 years, those small contributions could add up to something big. Really big, as in $3.5 million big.
“We could help a lot of students with that kind of money,” said Sell, a 1978 Highline graduate who went on to earn his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Washington.
He recently celebrated 20 years at the college, where he is a professor of journalism and political economy.
“When I was a student, tuition was little more than $100 a quarter. You could get a part-time job and pay for college. College was affordable,” he said. “If you factored in inflation, tuition now would be about $350 a quarter. Of course, it’s over $1,200. I don’t know how students afford it on top of everything else.”
The fundraising idea morphed into a challenge—the T-Bird Alumni 10 in 10 Challenge—where alumni can choose to give time or money during the 10-month initiative that launched November 1. (See below for three ways to participate.)
“Some of our alumni give so much of themselves through service work. I believe this challenge should encompass that giving, which may spur other alumni to volunteer as well,” said Rosa, who attended Highline in the late 1980s.
“I’m excited to see what our alumni do during the next 10 months,” she said. “From what I have seen of the alumni I have met, I know they are more than up to the challenge.”