As Autumn Johnson listened to her fellow students during the biweekly poetry slams put on by UCSC's Kinetic Poetics Project, she was struck by the power of their stories.
Now the 19-year-old sociology and creative writing (poetry) major is not only an organizing member of the Kinetic Poetics Project, but is also spreading her love of the spoken and written word to teenagers at a local alternative high school.
"I really enjoy working with youth," said Johnson, who is affiliated with Kresge College and plans to graduate in 2015. "I think it's important to be a role model and to give a good impression so they have something to strive to be."
Those life-altering nights of poetry might not have happened if it weren't for scholarships and a work-study program Johnson found at UCSC.
Gifts to UCSC support life-changing scholarships for students like Autumn Johnson.
Johnson's father owns an auto body shop in Culver City, Calif., and her mother works as a dispatcher for a cable company, so Johnson worried as she watched college costs skyrocket.
But thanks to a federal Pell Grant, loans, and a work-study job with the American Conservation Experience, which does restoration work in parks and public lands, Johnson found a way to finance her education.
Monies from the Hitchcock Poetry Fund, as well as funding from college senates, also allowed her beloved Kinetic Poetics Project not only to continue but also to put on the nation's 10th largest annual collegiate poetry festival.
With her belief that receiving also means giving back, Johnson also became deeply involved in volunteerism and philanthropy while at UCSC.
She not only helped organize this year's Kinetic Poetics Project festival but also regularly travels to Costanoa High School in Santa Cruz to help in the classroom as well as hold after-school poetry and performance workshops. She also worked with the Slug 2 Slug student philanthropy campaign, which raises money for scholarships.
Her humanitarian work also extends to her choice of career. Johnson plans to attend graduate school and work with indigenous rights organizations some day.