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Class of 2012 gets the Ivy League to join forces for philanthropy for first time

Thanks to the enterprising efforts of several Cornell freshmen three years ago, students at the eight Ivy League schools are working together on a philanthropy project for the first time.

So far, more than $10,000 has been raised for Save the Children, which has allowed 112 girls to attend school in such countries as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Malawi, Mali and Mozambique. The program has also provided 915 picture books for children in Afghanistan and 146 education kits (backpacks, pencils, water bottles and lunch kits, among other necessities) for underprivileged children, and emergency shelter and baby care kits for victims of the 2010 flood in Pakistan.

The effort started in May 2009, when the Class of 2012 President Annabel Fowler and Vice President Steven Zhang proposed a collaborative service project to the other Ivy League schools. The resulting Ivy Education Campaign decided to first focus on education in developing countries, Fowler said.

Bringing the eight schools together, however, was a challenge. "Contacting the other Ivies required a lot of patience and coordination," Zhang said. "In the end each school actively contributed their own unique part to the cause."

Cornell served as the facilitator among the schools, Zhang said.

Each school hosted its own fundraisers, Fowler said. Cornell held a talent show called "Cornell's Finest," along with a silent auction featuring autographed sports memorabilia, a book signed by journalist Nicolas Kristof and a letter of support from comedian Bob Saget. Cornell also hosted "Hands for Health," a relief concert for flood victims in Pakistan, Fowler said. In addition, money was raised via word of mouth and online.

"Many families and friends … were generous enough to pass the word along," Zhang said.

The success of the Ivy Education Campaigns qualified the Class of 2012 Council to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference, April 1-3, at the University of California, San Diego. Fowler, Zhang and Philip Gatto '12, vice president of finance, attended lectures, workshops and other activities related to such world challenges as education, health and world hunger. Student activists, celebrities, heads of leading NGOs and other individuals who have created positive changes in the world headed each session. Representatives from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia also attended the conference.

"My favorite part of the campaign was really working with the people from the other schools and knowing that our class will leave a footprint after we leave," Zhang said. "The Ivy League is fraught with rivalry, but this was an opportunity to work with one another for a greater cause."

For next year, plans include shifting the focus to one country, supporting disaster relief in developing countries (notably Pakistan who was hit hard with the 2010 floods) or even supporting domestic education by teaming up with an inner-city school, Zhang explained.

"Improving the quality of education builds the roots for a new generation of children," Fowler said, encouraging others to get involved in the efforts.

Dorothy Chan '12 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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Joe Schwartz