Building a legacy of Senior Class Giving

28 April 2017

By Baoyun Chelsea Cheo (Class of 2017) | Images as credited

As Yale-NUS College prepares for the graduation of its first class this May, the Class of 2017 united for their final parting gift to the College community in February during the College’s inaugural Senior Class Gift (SCG) Campaign. Led by a committee of seven students from the Class of 2017, the SCG is an initiative that encourages the graduating class to give towards a worthy cause and in doing so, leave a legacy behind by building a tradition of giving in the Yale-NUS student community. This year, all gifts through this initiative were channelled towards financial aid—enabling future generations of needy Yale-NUS students to fully benefit from their time spent at the College, without having to worry about financial obligations. Through their efforts, the students from the Class of 2017 raised S$4,557, with a 91% participation rate from the class. 

“The SCG is about fostering and committing to a spirit of participation and support,” said Zachary Mahon (Class of 2017), a member of the inaugural SCG Committee. “As we become alumni and spread across the globe, the ways in which we can be involved in the Yale-NUS community will change. Having all of us coming together to give back is about acknowledging and accepting this transition. We chose Yale-NUS because we wanted to build a world-class institution that thrives for decades and centuries to come. It is clear to all of us that this does not stop, even after we graduate. The SCG is about re-signalling our commitment to this life-long project.”

Student-designed posters describing the various giving challenges were put up around campus, to encourage the Class of 2017 to make their Senior Class Gift.

Spurred by the senior class’ efforts to come together, various generous donors stepped forward to offer different challenges to the students to further maximise the impact of their gift.

“It’s been very encouraging to see the Class of 2017 coming together to pioneer and establish new traditions, especially for a worthy cause like financial aid,” said Yale-NUS President Pericles Lewis. “With this in mind, the senior leadership team proposed to match their gifts dollar for dollar, so as to further the impact that their gifts will have on students who would benefit from receiving financial aid.”

Mrs Doris Sohmen-Pao, former Executive Vice President (Institutional Affairs) also stepped forward with a challenge gift, with the condition that the Class achieved a 90% participation rate. A ‘Class of 2017 Award’ would then be created and named after the inaugural senior class. Each year, the graduating class will nominate one of their peers to receive this award, which recognises him/her for making a difference in and contributing towards the Yale-NUS community.

“I’m very heartened that our class banded together to reach our participation goal,” added Natalie Tan (Class of 2017). “Many students were very personally committed to promoting this cause.”

Saga College Rector Sarah Weiss celebrated her Residential College’s achievement together with her students. “Such a high level of participation for the SCG means much more than the simple dollar amount contributed by the Class of 2017. Their participation represents one more foundational act in the building of Yale-NUS College. Our inaugural class’ participation rate of 91% is nothing short of extraordinary. Because of their efforts, other classes will strive to match that level of giving so that we can grow our endowment, which will ensure the College’s future and enable its iconic programmes to flourish.”

The College Chairs for each of the three Residential Colleges (from left to right): Baoyun Chelsea Cheo for Saga, Chua Wan Ping for Elm, and Willie Khoo for Cendana. Photo by Aleithia Low.

For Diamanta Vania Lavi (Class of 2017), the SCG was a way for her to give back to the College. Citing how being a recipient of the Alan Chan Study Award helped her fully immerse herself in the Yale-NUS experience, she shared, “Instead of worrying about spending my free time working, I was able to contribute to the Yale-NUS community by cooking in the butteries or serving in the Student Government.”

The campaign was also a way for the senior class to come together and remember their four years together as a class. The SCG committee members put together various initiatives for the campaign, including a well-received publicity video showcasing the senior class’ various achievements, moments and memories, which ranged from the birth of an a cappella group, The Wallets, to celebrating fond moments in the science lab or the dance studio and learning at a Rector’s Tea setting. In addition, a message board on the theme “Before I Graduate” was set up near Café Agora for seniors to pen down their messages and hopes for the future beyond graduation.

Seniors penned their hopes and dreams for graduation and beyond on a message board set up at Café Agora. Image by Rachel Phoon.

The SCG committee members (all from the Class of 2017, from left to right) were: Willie Khoo,Chia Teck Yuke, Chua Wan Ping, Baoyun Chelsea Cheo, David Chia, Zachary Mahon and Aaron Kurzak.

Sharing his experience serving in the SCG Committee, Chia Teck Yuke (Class of 2017) cited the process itself as his main takeaway.

“Beyond reaching our goal and setting a high initial bar of participation for subsequent classes, what stood out about the SCG was the process, where individuals came forward of their own volition to share what they have received from the College and why they were giving back to it,” he reflected. “It was a timely reminder of the privilege of being in the first class, where we had the chance to build this ship while sailing it. I hope that we’ll continue to remain engaged and further build up our college even as we become alumni.”