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February 11, 2016

Room to Read campaign “kicks” off awareness month

Araz Havan/Collegian

A group of over 50 kick boxers helped to raise funds and awareness for Students Rising, a new campaign on campus aimed at helping a non-profit that promotes literacy and gender equality yesterday.

The student run group was started this semester by senior communication peer advisor Rachel Levine with help from other communication peer advisors. The campaign aims to raise money for Room to Read, an organization that helps school children in Asia and Africa learn to read and supports secondary education for girls.

The kickboxing event was led by senior Eliza Shirazi, a public health and communications major. Shirazi, who has led kickboxing marathons to kick start events in the past, has been teaching kickboxing at the University of Massachusetts since her freshman year.

“Kick is really unique because it brings masses of people together for a cause,” she said, noting the “high energy” and “great music.”

Levine became involved in Room to Read over winter break after meeting UMass alumnus Benjamin Happ who has worked with the nonprofit since leaving the University. After being invited to a fundraiser in Boston, Levine became very committed to the cause, and pitched the idea of fundraising for Room to Read to her fellow peer advisors.

“She went into class a few times, read a couple passages out of the book of the founder of Room to Read, and we all pretty much got hooked,” Brian Paris, a junior communication and English major, said. “It talks a lot about gender equality, it talks a lot about spreading knowledge around the world, and it’s pretty difficult to refute the ideals that this organization is backed by,” said Paris.

According to Levine, the group’s name, Students Rising, is a play on the name of documentary “Girls Rising,” which highlights a Room to Read scholarship recipient. She added that giving a name to the campaign helped attribute a positive force to UMass because “we often have negative PR and this is a way to rise above that and show the positive impact we can have on the world.”

The campaign has dedicated April as the Room to Read Awareness Month, throughout which the peer advisors, with Students Rising, will be holding fundraising events to raise money and awareness for the cause. The first event was Tuesday’s Kickboxing Marathon, and future events include Give Back Nights at Panera Bread in Hadley next week and fundraisers at Applebee’s and Chili’s in subsequent weeks.

The campaign will also be selling one-dollar pledges, which are pieces of paper shaped like books on which a donor writes his or her name on the paper and has it hung up in the vestibule of the Du Bois Library later this month.

Kailey Anarino, a senior communications major – also a communication peer advisor – said that on the first day of advocating for pledges outside of the library, Students Rising raised around $100.

Levine said that the goal for the campaign is to raise $5000 in order to fund the construction of a library.

“This would really hit home for me because my grandmother who was a caregiver for me all growing up was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and she was a librarian,” she said. “I would love to establish a library in her name.”

Levine added that “whatever we raise will make a contribution. I think also awareness is really important, that people on campus know about this nonprofit and how they can contribute and make change.”

Students Rising: A Room to Read Campaign can be found on Facebook and Twitter, at @RoomtoRead_UMA.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at pphoff@student.umass.edu.

 

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