Philanthropic Contributions Add Up

Alastair Baines, Matt DePasquale ’07, Michele Engle ’88, Ali Shahnami ’81 ’95MSEE and M.C. Santana talk about why giving to UCF matters.

“I am blessed to help [students] in times like this,” says Ali Shahnami ’81 ’95MSEE, a double UCF alumnus and alumni board member whose most recent gifts have supported the Student Emergency Fund and the Student Housing Insecurity Fund. Giving to students, especially during this current crisis is, in his words, a no brainer. “They are part of UCF’s extended family so I want them to know we are there for them. This is the time to step up and help.”

Giving is personal and each donor who makes a commitment to support UCF does so for unique reasons. But one thing is the same for all: they want to make a difference. The ongoing commitment of those who give year after year has a far-reaching impact on the entire university.

“I want to be the shoulders that future Knights stand on,” says Michele Engle ’88, an alumna, UCF parent and chair of the Parent and Family Philanthropy Council. She believes it takes a community to help young adults succeed in higher education, especially today when so many students and families are struggling because of the pandemic. “When parents are able to contribute more to help students other than their own, it enhances the quality of the university experience for all,” she says.

Whether funding student programs that have an immediate need or ones that have long-range impact,  every gift is important. The collective impact of consistent giving — to things like student scholarships, mentoring programs, student emergency funds, career services — helps students of today and tomorrow.

In fact, a growing number students of today are helping students of tomorrow. Alastair Barnes, a UCF senior majoring in engineering and a member of 4EVER Knights (4EK), a student organization that serves to bridge students and alumni, has made a gift to the university for the past few years. “As a member of 4EK, I am avidly aware of the important role that donations play in so many aspects of UCF’s operations,” he says. He has given to the PTSD clinic on campus and to first generation scholarships and plans to continue giving. “I will be giving my class gift prior to graduation this year as well, likely designated to the area of greatest need since there are so many unknowns this year with the virus.”  

Like Barnes, Matt DePasquale ’07 also actively works to connect alumni with their alma mater. He not only donates funds to the College of Arts and Humanities (CAH), where he graduated with a theater degree, but volunteers his time as philanthropy chair of the CAH Alumni Board. “UCF played a major part in my life, helping me build friendships and professional relationships that last to this day,” he says. “By supporting this college, I am hoping to create opportunities for future students to pursue the career they’ve always dreamed about.”

Giving is not limited to students and alumni; a large number of consistent donors are faculty and staff members who work closely with students and can see the impact of their donations. Dr. M.C. Santana, director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and associate professor, College of Arts and Humanities, regularly supports student programs and believes that “our efforts should be for students to complete their education the best way possible and to move into the community with two strong feet.”  

At UCF, we are committed to opening doors and removing obstacles so more students have the opportunity to succeed, earn a college degree and become so much more than they ever believed. Philanthropy helps us do that. Your continued support ­— whether $5 or $500 —  is more important than ever during our current crisis, as so many of our students are struggling with lost jobs, housing insecurity and academic uncertainty.

Renew your support today to help our students reach their full potential.  

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