Toward the end of last semester, K-State Proud approached me about being their “Honorary Co-Chair.” Usually this is somebody who is well-known and respected throughout the K-State community. The former co-chair was our popular basketball coach Frank Martin, and before that it was (now retired) University President Jon Wefald, so obviously it was a great honor to be approached about this. But looking at my research and teaching schedule, I was hesitant to get involved. At the time, I thought K-State Proud was just a t-shirt selling campaign. It seems like everybody has one of those “K-State Proud” t-shirts. I think they are great shirts, but its just a shirt, and I’m thinking that I’m way too busy to be selling t-shirts.
It wasn’t until I sat down with students from the K-State Proud committee that I found out what Proud is really all about. Every dollar goes toward student scholarships, most of which helps students stay in school when all of their other resources are tapped out. Over the past 3 years, students have donated over $250,000 to keep their fellow students in school when they need it most, like when their house has been taken by a tornado, their belongings have been taken by a flood, or when a serious illness drains them of their last dollar and the will to go on. Most importantly, it even helps those students who are perpetually struggling financially to stay at K-State.
Meanwhile, the new semester was quickly approaching, and I needed to design my crash course in digital storytelling for my incoming Digital Ethnography students. Most students come in with little or no digital video background, so each year I design a 4 week program that allows them to complete their first mini-project before moving on to creating their major semester project. Like always, I want the mini-project to be more than just another assignment. It has to matter to them and to the world. The Proud campaign seemed like a perfect match. We contacted former Proud winners and matched each of my incoming students with one of them. Each student then created a short video vignette about the Proud winner. We arranged interviews with a cancer survivor, a Katrina survivor, and many others who have overcome more than their share of struggles and still remain here at K-State. I was personally surprised to find so many of my favorite students on the list of former Proud Award winners. And without Proud, they would have never been in my classes.
But we still needed to show the K-State Community that Proud is more than just a shirt – that it is students helping students. And that’s where the Flash Mob of Kindness comes in. What you see in the video is 100 students coming together, pooling their money, and then running all over campus using that money to perform random acts of kindness for other students. It is simply a way of acting out what K-State Proud really does. When a student gets a Proud Award, it is as if the entire student body has pitched in a little bit to help them out, just like you see in the video. In all, it made for a crazy fun day, and I’m sure if you talked to any of the students involved, they would tell you it was well worth the money they donated just for the experience alone. Three weeks later, the video is edited and ready to go, just in time for the Proud Rally to be held tonight in the Student Union.
One last pedagogical note: activities like this make for a great first day of any digital storytelling / media class by giving students some experience in online organizing and planning, handling a camera, and also allowing them to bond with each other through a fun experience. And in the three weeks since that first day, the students have been meeting with their Proud Award winning partner, recording interviews, and shaping video vignettes like this:
K-State Proud Award Winner Kala Raglin (by David Westfall)
K-State Proud Award Winner Hannah McSpadden (by Shane Oram)
K-State Hero Award Winner Rachel Day (by Kristin Russell)
More coming soon!
You can learn more about the Proud program at www.k-stateproud.org.