Gratitude for their own opportunities inspires IU Northwest couple to give back
Oct. 12, 2016
As the first in his family to receive a college degree, Christopher Young was only able to dedicate himself to his education because of the financial assistance he received. His scholarships allowed him to attend school without working, something he immensely appreciated.
"Because of that help, I was able to immerse myself in the experience of going to college and study without distractions. I think that helped me to be a successful student," said Young, director of the Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching and Learning at IU Northwest.
For Myriam Young, director of web services at IU Northwest, it was an internship made possible by an influential philanthropist from the University of Illinois at Chicago that was a game-changer in her life. While a student in Mexico City, Young received an opportunity to come to the United States and work at a prestigious graphic design firm in Chicago while she finished her graphic design degree.
"This generous man saw potential in students who wanted to work or study in the U.S. but didn’t have the means. He invited them to come here and experience life and the job market," Myriam Young said. "This provided an opportunity to see what was possible and opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities."
A side benefit of Myriam’s internship was meeting Chris. Today, the married couple is working together as co-chairs for the 2016 Philanthropy Week campaign. They hope to use their own experiences to inspire colleagues to contribute to changing the lives of IU Northwest students.
For the Youngs, the gifts they’ve received in their own lives motivate them to contribute, but another driving force has been simply seeing the need.
Myriam said that she was touched when she saw a particular student cross the commencement stage in May. This student, a single mother who fell on rough financial times and faced the loss of her financial aid due to bankruptcy, was able to stay enrolled and finish her degree because others who witnessed her struggle and drive to achieve stepped in to assist her.
This story is common at IU Northwest, where first-generation students, adult learners, and folks with too many work and family obligations to count -- often with lots of academic potential but burdened with financial challenges -- persevere to earn their degree.
Chris remembers the first time he felt compelled to be philanthropic. He gave to the library where he’d spent so much time while earning his doctorate at University of Illinois at Chicago.
"I used the library a lot," Chris said. "Seeing it thrive was important to me."
When the couple arrived at IU Northwest, they attended a Chancellor’s Medallion celebration and were moved by the stories of struggling students whose lives were changed by philanthropic supporters.
"It reminded me of my own experience as a beneficiary of others’ generosity," Chris said. "It resonated."
During Philanthropy Week, the goal is to see each person on campus give. And no amount is too small.
"Collectively," the Youngs said, "we can be very powerful."