Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CIS) participated in a bit of history-making last Friday evening May 3 at Queens University of Charlotte's commencement exercises for its graduate programs. And even better, a $50,000 grant for CIS from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation was part of the result!
Earlier in the year, the Knight Foundation polled graduate students at Queens to discover what critical issues facing the community they deemed most important. Based on the poll results, the Knight Foundation then selected three charities - CIS, Goodwill, and Loaves and Fishes - that represented the students' top three concerns of education, jobs, and hunger. What the students didn't know was that they would have the opportunity to participate in a "random act of philanthropy" during their upcoming graduation ceremony, by voting via text message for their top choice among these three charities.
Each charity created a 45-second video (per Knight Foundation stipulation) that the audience viewed during the commencement. Then they were told to whip out their smart phones and vote - "American Idol" style! Communities In Schools received the most votes, and with that honor came a $50,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Goodwill and Loaves and Fishes did not go away empty-handed, however; the Knight Foundation generously donated $25,000 to each of these as well.
Eric Newton, senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation, and who gave the commencement address, explained to the graduates and the audience that the Knight Foundation is committed to "raising the digital literacy rate" and wanted tonight's audience to experience first-hand the power of digital media's ability to do good.
"Doesn't it feel good to give?" Newton asked. "Tonight, my hope is that students walk away with a clearer understanding of the incredible power of digital media," said Newton. "We have the ability, at our fingertips, to make an instant difference in the lives of those in need, and it is our responsibility as noble citizens to do just that."
Molly Shaw, Communities In Schools-Charlotte Executive Director, who attended the commencement, was naturally thrilled with the voting results.
"It was exciting to witness the voting and results in 'real time,' said Shaw. "Flash philanthropy sets a new bar - tonight was groundbreaking for this community and for philanthropy. Communities In Schools is thrilled to be a part of such innovative thinking, and we are grateful to the Knight Foundation and Queens for making this opportunity possible."