UND’s recent Giving Hearts Day fundraising campaign brings in $140,000 for student scholarships

UND’s recent Giving Hearts Day fundraising campaign brings in $140,000 for student scholarships

Michelle Nguyen (left) holds her Giving Hearts Day scholarship check together with her roommate Anna Hornbostel. Nguyen hopes to be able to use some of the money to help Hornbostel attend a costly drum camp. Photo by Dima Williams/UND Today.

The day before Valentine’s Day, Michelle Nguyen was at home, calling nursing homes to deliver holiday cards she and several other University of North Dakota students had crafted. So, when the phone rang in mid-afternoon, she expected to hear from someone about her Valentine’s Day initiative. Instead, on the other end was a representative from UND Alumni Association and Foundation.

Nguyen, a junior in the Nistler College of Business & Public Administration, had won a Giving Hearts Day scholarship of $2,500.

“I was shaking,” said Nguyen, who, throughout her academic career, had also received a couple of national scholarships that have helped her stay in school. “I was like, ‘No way! Seriously?’ Because I never really win anything that depends so much on luck.”

All Nguyen – as well as any other UND student – had to do to apply for a Giving Hearts Day scholarship was to fill out a brief form online. While recipients are drawn through a lottery system, UND Financial Aid office ensures their eligibility (some scholarships and aid packages might conflict with one another) before AA&F notifies them that they have won.

Championed by the Dakota Medical Foundation, the Alex Stern Family Foundation and the Impact Foundation, Giving Hearts Day is a 24-hour fundraising spree in North Dakota and western Minnesota. Nearly 500 organizations – from charities to universities – partook this year in the campaign to share their stories and attract donors.

According to the Giving Hearts Day website, last Thursday some 35,000 benefactors contributed close to a record $20 million. UND Alumni Association and Foundation raised $140,000 through approximately 320 gifts, said Nicole Polejewski, AA&F’s social media and marketing coordinator.

The funds are divided across UND Colleges for student scholarships.

“Giving Hearts Day is extremely important, especially because we have such a solid focus on student scholarships and our ability to give those scholarships back almost instantly,” said Polejewski.

Joseph Hackman, a second-year law student, poses with UND Law School Dean Mike McGinniss to show the Giving Hearts Day scholarship check. Photo courtesy of UND Law School Instagram page.

Less than an hour after that lucky call, Nguyen was in the Gorecki Alumni Center to collect a huge, red-framed check. So was Joseph Hackman, a second-year law student, who abandoned a course assignment he had just started doing when AA&F invited him over to receive his scholarship.

“I first called my girlfriend and let her know that I had a huge check in the back of the car,” he said with a laugh. “We had to find another way to get around that day.”

Nguyen, who is petite, also had to wrestle with the scale of a Giving Hearts Day check.

“I’ve never gotten a check as big as me,” she said.

In a metaphorical way, the size of the checks evokes the difference the funds could yield in a student’s life. Hackman will be using the money to defray some of the many costs of attending law school.

“It’s really tough now to just have to keep applying for student loans through either the federal government or the state of North Dakota,” he said. “Having that extra money will definitely help as far as paying for tuition and books, but then also for rent and just living expenses.”

With her tuition covered, Nguyen hopes to be able to use her scholarship to help her parents catch up on their mortgage payments. She also wants to support her roommate, Anna Hornbostel, whose dream has always been to attend a coveted but costly drum camp.

“I want to be a part of that – to hopefully make sure she goes one day,” said Nguyen as her eyes welled up.

As Nguyen spoke, Hornbostel sat nearby, hearing about her pledge for the first time. Quietly, tears filled Hornbostel’s eyes too.

“I have kind of been on the scout for this for the last three years,” Nguyen said. “Just keep doing it. Even if you fail, do it again. That’s my advice on scholarships.”

While AA&F presented only two checks on Giving Hearts Day, it will continue to award scholarships in the coming days.