Through the Student Lens – Student phonathon team members

Who is on the other end of the line when you get the call from Wheaton’s student phonathon team? Someday one of these amazing Wheaton students may be calling YOU. Why do they and so many of our students believe in building a culture of philanthropy and in leaving a lasting legacy upon graduation? Take a look through the student lens.
Gabby Anderson Sanchez ’20:
Double Major: Hispanic Studies/International Relations
Hometown: Hartford, CT 

Gina Rose Napolitano ’20:
Double Major: English/Secondary Education
Hometown: Somers, CT

Jaime DeKett ’21:
Major: Neuroscience
Hometown: Lyndonville, VT

Why are you a student phonathon caller at Wheaton?
Gabby ’20:
I have gained assurance that almost everyone that had attended Wheaton left prepared for the world’s endeavors. Not only do I work for the Wheaton Fund, but I am also an annual donor to the program. Working at the Wheaton Fund had allowed me to understand the amazing things that the program provides to the school which positively impact my experience here. Many events such as Fall Fest and Parent & Family Weekend would not be possible if it were not for the Wheaton Fund.

Gina ’20: Since becoming a student at Wheaton, I have had 3 internships, several employment positions, have started my own business, and travelled to Rwanda largely due to proactive, knowledgeable professors and a supportive community. These and so many other factors encompass my main reasons for being a phonathon caller. I often get asked, “Isn’t it difficult to ask people for money?” and while it can be difficult sometimes, I usually respond by saying, “Not when you are asking for donations to something that you believe in, and I believe in Wheaton.”

Jaime ’21: I was looking for a job that would leave me feeling fulfilled and I was struggling to cover the costs of tuition. The thought of gathering donations and helping other students to continue their education, as I was able to do, seemed a perfect job for me. Not only would I be able to help Wheaton provide valuable programs to my peers, but working as a student phonathon caller has also afforded me the opportunity to get in touch with various alumni and learn about their lives after graduating from Wheaton.

What do you enjoy most about calling donors?
Gabby ’20: Besides hearing their positive experiences studying at Wheaton, I enjoy having a conversation with them. Many alumni that I have spoken to work at amazing positions and are succeeding in fields that they had studied during their time here at Wheaton. As a senior, I find it incredibly inspiring that I, too, can achieve such a great future. I will never forget the advice I received from one alum, who stated, “No matter how long you have left Wheaton, once you step back on campus, you feel like you are back home.” That quote has resonated with me over the years studying at Wheaton and indeed proves that the Wheaton education and community is distinct.

Gina ’20: The conversations that I have with donors are stimulating and enjoyable and the advice that I get from alumni in particular is priceless. I feel as though I have learned so much about my perspective career in particular (teaching and politics) from alums over the years.

Jaime ’21: I love hearing about donors’ experiences beyond Wheaton, and the ways that Wheaton has set them up for these experiences. To my friends, I will jokingly refer to working as a student phonathon caller as my second education because every person I speak with always has some new tool to offer me to help me succeed both at Wheaton, and beyond.

How do you, as a student, help build the culture of philanthropy at Wheaton College?
Gabby ’20: As a student, I do my best to spread the news of the Wheaton Fund to my friends and throughout the Wheaton community. The Wheaton Fund is always hosting great activities, such as Socktober, that motivate students to donate. Understandably, many students do not want to donate because of the financial responsibilities. However, I always explain to them that the Wheaton Fund works incredibly hard to collect donations in order to provide them with the scholarships that they are currently receiving! Their donation of any amount is supporting scholarship awards for every student (including their own!). Hence, they understand that their donation is not only helping fund other areas of greatest need but helping fund their future years here at Wheaton.

Gina ’20: This year, I am one of 5 co-gift chairs for the class of 2020. I am currently in the process of encouraging my peers to give back to the community that has provided them with a quality education. I am currently a member of the 1834 Consecutive Giving Society, the Mary Lyons Leadership Society, and Slype Sustainers. It is an honor to be a part of these societies and it enables me to inform current and former students and parents of all of their giving options in regards to the college.

Jaime ’21: As the recipient of various scholarships at Wheaton I have always been closely acquainted with the philanthropy of Wheaton alums. However, since becoming engaged with the community of donors, I have found such a passion kindled in myself to continue to foster philanthropy on campus. Even as a current student I make my own contribution to the Wheaton Fund every year and participate in encouraging philanthropy on campus through tabling at various events such as Giving Tuesday. This desire to give back is easy to find across campus as Wheaton fosters an environment of generosity and willingness to help others that has made me and so many other students feel at home.

Why do you think it is important for parents to make Wheaton a philanthropic priority?
Gabby ’20: A parent’s contribution to the Wheaton Fund is an investment for their child’s future. For example, if a parent’s child is majoring in Biology, they can donate directly to the Science, Technology & Library Resources. Therefore, the parent is directly supporting the sciences and providing extra funds to invest in the best technology that Wheaton can provide. Parents can make a direct donation to anywhere on campus—from Areas of Greatest Need to Strengthening Ties to Community. Making Wheaton a priority means a lot because it shows that they not only support their child’s education, but they are supporting mine as well.

Gina ’20: Parents in particular should make Wheaton a philanthropic priority in hopes of continuing the tradition of giving. Odds are high that any given current or former student was on some sort of scholarship to attend the school, so parents should work to pay that forward. The gift of education is the greatest present that you can give to any young person, and I would imagine that most parents would want a quality education not only for their own children, but for many generations to come.

Jaime ’21: Wheaton, as an academic institution, values its students above all else. Philanthropy from parents is incredibly important because when parents donate they are helping to create academic opportunities for students who may never have been able to experience them otherwise. Furthermore, donations to the Wheaton Fund helps Wheaton to expand their programs and offer even more amazing opportunities to all of our students.

How do you feel when a gift is made by a parent?
Gabby ’20: Wheaton parents are one of my favorite groups to call. It’s outstanding to hear the reasons they are proud that their child attends such a great institution. I assure the parents that every donation that they have contributed to the Wheaton Fund provides memorable experiences for their child—such as opportunities at internships, learning from renowned professors in a small classroom setting, and providing students the best study abroad programs. After having a conversation with them and explaining the designations that the Wheaton Fund has, they automatically feel inspired to donate. Many understand that all the funds will positively impact their child’s experience at Wheaton. It is great to hear from parents that value their child’s education and support the institution in which they attend in every possible.

Gina ’20: I personally feel honored when a gift is made by a parent, especially if they are a parent of a current student. As someone who is receiving financial help from her parents while simultaneously going into debt for my education, I understand the burden that college expenses often produce for families. For a parent to acknowledge the fact that tuition does not cover everything and give to the college implies that they have the same faith in Wheaton that I do. They are giving the school a vote of confidence and helping to pass along the same fortune that their student has had in attending this college to another young person.

Jaime ’21: Whenever a parent donates to the Wheaton Fund I am genuinely ecstatic. I love speaking to parents because it reminds me of home and of my own parents. It is incredibly cathartic to call asking for a donation and to not only receive a donation, but be reminded to drink water, and get plenty of sleep, and good luck on your exams! Furthermore, when parents donate, it is incredibly heartwarming to be reminded of their dedication to creating the best possible environment and education for both their own children, and other students such as myself.

Describe your favorite conversation with a donor.
Gabby ’20: One of my favorite conversations I have had with a donor occurred in my junior year, with a father whose daughter was a first-year. He stated that his daughter was not sure about what she wanted to study; however, he was not worried due to Wheaton’s liberal arts education. He said that his college education was not nearly as great as the one his daughter is receiving now. The father was happy that his daughter could take any course she wanted to and was confident that she would find her career path soon. I had explained to him that the Wheaton Fund directly supports the Experimental Learning program at Wheaton. Such donations mostly support the Filene Center—which provides the student with peer-tutors, internship positions, and the opportunity to meet with the educated staff that works hard to help every student who may feel unsure of their major. He then designated his gift to “Experiential Learning” without hesitation. After his donation, the father thanked me for calling him. He was able to learn more about the Wheaton Fund, and learn how the Wheaton Fund has impacted my life here at Wheaton. This conversation brought me pure joy! I am proud to assure parents that Wheaton is working as hard as they can in order to give their child the best college experience.

Gina ’20: The best conversation that I ever had with a donor was with someone who had not given to the college in decades. This person was somewhat disappointed that the college had gone co-ed, and although we had a lovely conversation, she told me about 10 minutes into the phone call that she would not be donating to the college for that reason. She told me about discrimination that she had experienced in the workforce post-graduation in the 80’s. She related her grievances with Wheaton to that.  She believed that the college had once been a safe haven for women and that it simply was not that way anymore. I told her about all of the opportunities afforded to female and non-binary students as well as various community gatherings that were often encircled around those gender identities. I told her about my own personal activism, my Women’s and Gender Studies minor, and how so many students were working to support women in STEM programs. It seemed she simply had not had heard about just how supportive Wheaton is and has the potential to be for members of marginalized communities. Despite the fact that she had not given to the college in many years, we spoke for 45 minutes, and she donated quite a generous amount to Wheaton. This was easily one of the best conversations that I have ever had as a phonathon caller, but there have been so many alums and parents that have made an impression on me that I will not soon forget.

Jaime ’21: My first task on a call with a donor is to update their contact information. This is usually uneventful as contact information rarely changes. For this woman, everything was different. She had just recently ended a marriage, moved into a different house, in a different state—in essence had her life entirely turned upside down. Throughout the entire call she was laughing and joking, and making light of her new situation. The positivity that she radiated was infectious, and she advised me to always look at the bright side of things, because, as she assured me, there is always a bright side of anything—and for me that night, the bright side of things was talking to her!

Through the Student Lens

Gabby, Gina, and Jaime are just a few of the many engaging students here at Wheaton. As parents, you are an integral part of our community. Through the Student Lens will bring the campus to you, as seen through the eyes of our students, the many roles they play, and experiences they gain during the time here at Wheaton.