No money? No problem. There are other ways to help!


Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze

I’ve never met Kori Nelson or Paul Leblanc in person. But, thanks to the power of the internet, I recently introduced them to each other.  Now, Paul is financing Kori’s trip from Minnesota to New Hampshire, so that she can attend her college graduation ceremony at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)—  the same college where Paul just happens to be the President!

I’m also a student at SNHU, which is how I know Kori. We met this past fall at SNHU’s online student center (SNHU Connect) when we were inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success. Even though she lives in Menahga, Minnesota and I live in Los Angeles, California, we became fast friends.  We even made a point to skype at least once a month, and the more I learned about Kori, the more I thought she was great. Not only was she a full- time student, but she was also a hard-working mom of two with aspirations to help victims of domestic abuse. Despite challenges with family scheduling, job changes and the weather (look on the map, Menahga is basically at the North Pole!) she always remained optimistic and determined to succeed.

That’s why, the moment I heard she needed help financing her family’s trip to SNHU (so that her husband and children could be there as she accepted her diploma), I wanted to help.

Kori had set up a crowd funding campaign on You Caring, to raise the $500 her family needed for the trip. I went to the site. The more I read her family’s story the more I wanted to write a check to cover the entire amount. Unfortunately, as a student, I couldn’t afford to do that. But, as a writer, a social media marketing manager and a friend, I knew exactly how I could help.

First, I re-wrote her story; cleaned it up a bit to make sure it could appeal to any potential donor. Then, I got on Twitter  and Linkedin to share her story with my connections and followers. As I was scrolling through my list, I came across Dr. Paul LebBanc, the President of SNHU.

I first met Paul online too, when he retweeted an article I wrote for Borgen Magazine about SNHU’s College for America’s online learning program for refugees living at the Kiziba Refugee Camp, in Kigali, Rwanda. At the time, I had scrolled through his Twitter feed. I remember feeling that he was more than just a figure head of a President; that he genuinely cared about his students and would probably do anything to help them suceed. It seemed like Paul was one of us. He even accepted my invitation to connect on Linkedin!  So, with a little wishful thinking, I sent him a message with a link to Kori’s You Caring campaign and a note asking him to, “Please help spread the word!” Almost instantly he wrote back, saying that he “took care of the expenses,” because he was a “sucker for cute kid pics and SNHU students.” Although, I still suspect it was a little more than that; that perhaps, his generosity had something to do with good-old-fashioned human kindness.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that the internet, especially social media, can inspire people to do good things. This is because much of what we hear and read on the subject is filtered through a very negative light. But, good things do come from a connected world. In fact, stories of kindness are popping up all over the news. This week, on NBC News, a hardworking father of two couldn’t afford to help his friend Shajuana (a cashier at his favorite Popeyes) make her $1500 tuition payment for nursing school. But, he started a crowd funding campaign to find others who could. Last checked, Shajuana’s fund  was over $14,000.  And, this South Carolina teacher raised $80,000 on Go Fund Me to buy every child in her a school a brand new bike!

Even large-scale non-profit organizations understand that not everyone can afford to fork over $100 for every cause they care about. Organizations like the American Red Cross accept vehicle donations, volunteer time and of course, blood donations— giving everyone the opportunity to help those in need.

As for Kori and Paul, he’s asked her to sit on the “right side” of the stage during graduation. This way, when she walks across the stage to accept her diploma in May, he will be the one who hands it to her. And, although she hasn’t said so, I suspect Paul may get a huge hug in return!