How do you turn $2,000 into $30,000? You’ll want to enlist a bunch of 18-year-olds. But not just a random group—make it a highly cohesive set of students from UC Santa Cruz who have dedicated themselves to making a real difference.
Meet the students enrolled in a seminar titled “Good vs. Good.” And meet the project they focused on: Restoration of the Quarry Amphitheater in the heart of campus.
It doesn’t hurt to throw into the mix some involved older adults like Betsy Buchalter Adler (Cowell, ’70), Bill Anderson (Cowell, ’74), Carola Barton, Kathleen Rose (Cowell, ’73), and Alec Webster (College Eight, ‘02) and his wife, Claudia. Then stir things up with Cowell Provost Faye Crosby.
During the winter quarter, 2016, twelve freshmen met weekly at the Cowell Provost’s House for the “Good vs. Good” seminar. Designed by Adler, the course studied philanthropy. It invited students to consider the challenges that confront those who make positive change in the world. Whether you have only $5 in your pocket or you head the Gates Foundation, you need to make tough choices about limited resources.
Early in the course, students thought about how they might spend an imaginary $100,000 on the project of their choosing at UC Santa Cruz. Later, as the course drew to an end, the students wrestled with how to spend a real $2,000. The anonymous donor of that seed money had set one condition: the students had to spend all $2,000 on a single project; multiple funded projects not allowed.
What project did the students select? After hours of debate, they chose the restoration of the iconic Quarry Amphitheater, a landmark space created at the founding of the campus but closed since 2006 after falling into disrepair. The Quarry was the site of countless events—including leading voices for political and cultural change, rock concerts, teach-ins, memorials, and commencements. This, concluded the students, was a project that would bring the greatest good to the greatest number of students.
But $2,000 wasn’t going to make the kind of difference that the students wanted. Despite generous commitments from the Student Fee Advisory Committee and individual donors, and support from Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway’s office, the effort to reopen the Quarry was still $1.2 million short of the amount needed to break ground.
The students had an inspiration: turn $2,000 into $10,000 by hosting a dinner. They elected Sarah Jo Millar as their lead and Kaiena Conlon as the chief chef. Every student pledged to donate time. In response the provost paid for the groceries, and faculty and families donated wines.
On April 30, during UCSC’s 2016 Alumni Weekend, the students put on their dinner. Fifty guests dined on wild salmon, coq au vin, or vegan crepes — all freshly prepared by the students. Fifty guests listened to the students’ persuasive speeches. One after another, they explained why they cared so much about the Quarry, even though — or perhaps because — none of them had ever been able to use it. Students distributed pledge cards at the dinner, hoping they would somehow amass $10,000.
When they added up the commitments, they were stunned. The guests had committed $30,000 – three times what the students had dared to imagine.
The funds raised will be applied toward the project, for which fundraising is ongoing. The projected date for groundbreaking is in the fall of 2016, with reopening anticipated in 2017.
Adler, who helped Crosby teach the class, is among those impressed by what the students achieved. “The founders of this campus would be proud,” she said.
Restoration of the Quarry Amphitheater is a priority in the Student Experience Initiative of the Campaign for UC Santa Cruz. For more information, contact Linda Navone, at 831-459-2666.