For just over three months in the Fall of 2014, Kentucky State University and the Frankfort community were a much better place live and work when KSU initiated the Pay It Forward Frankfort campaign. The campaign was launched by the KSU President Raymond M. Burse on August 15, 2014. What started as a class project, became a movement within Franklin County and beyond.
Associate professor of Speech Communication, Shannon Brogan recently gave a talk about the success of the “Pay It Forward Frankfort” campaign, which started as a class project in April of 2014 in her Persuasive Speaking Class. The class watched the movie “Pay It Forward” in order to “look for persuasive techniques in the movie”. Shannon suggested that they all get ribbons that represented themselves and, as they do random acts of kindness for others on campus, give a ribbon to the recipient of the act. Although the ribbon idea did not really take off, the students did embrace the idea of paying it forward towards others in the form of outreaching into the Frankfort community and building better, stronger relationships.
Shannon grew up in Parkersburg, WV. Her childhood friend from there has a son named Dakota with a rare form of cancer called Langerhans Cell histiocytosis or LCH. During the water shortage crisis that hit Charleston, WV last January due to a chemical spill, her students decided to focus their efforts on one single pay it forward project – Dakota and what he and his family may need during this trying time. Shannon’s students gathered up toys to donate to the local hospital (on Dakota’s behalf), as well as water and other supplies for the family, and took a bus to West Virginia and surprised Dakota’s mom Kim. Kim was overwhelmed by the act of kindness that the KSU students showed. Before making their trip to Charleston, the KSU students took their generosity a step further. Concerned about how the family was making it by having to pay for Dakota’s medical expenses, they set a goal of $1,000 to collect and donate to the family. The students utilized social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like to get the word out and generate donations. In just six days, they collected a total of $2,200 to present to the family!The students felt so connected with Dakota after meeting him in person, that each of them took a “selfie” with him and made him practically feel like a rock star! When Dakota went to the hospital with the donated toys the KSU students brought, he said that “it was the best day of his life”. The students from Kentucky State University, Frankfort’s University, truly found out the meaning of “paying it forward”.
The “Pay It Forward Frankfort” project stemmed from Shannon relaying this story and her enthusiasm about the project to her local hair stylist at Planet Salon. Unknowingly, the hair stylist paid it forward by partially paying for her styling during that visit. When Shannon found out, she was so touched that she realized that the pay it forward project that her students had embraced, could reach even further than beyond Kentucky State’s boundaries. She and Irma Johnson, with the Office of Regional Stewardship at KSU, came up with the Pay It Forward Frankfort campaign – #PayItFwdFrankfort.
During the 100 days of the Pay It Forward Frankfort campaign, participants were encouraged to use a common hashtag (#payitfwdfrankfort) on Instagram and other social media sites, to share photos of their acts of kindness after the activities are complete. It began on August 15, 2014. For over three months, the entire KSU campus and Frankfort community were called into action to pay it forward. Frankfort businesses and individuals began doing things for others “just because”. For instance, paying for someone’s gas at a gas station. Or, paying for someone’s meal at lunch. Even Downtown Frankfort Executive Director, Brittain Skinner, brought flowers to one of the summer concerts held downtown and handed them out. One woman who had received a flower from someone else, found Brittain and told her that she would place the flower on her mother’s grave the following day. Although many people didn’t post what their acts of kindness were, they shared their stories with Irma and Shannon, proving to them that it was truly “the little things” that made a difference in someone’s day or their entire life.
Shannon wants the “pay it forward” mentality to be a part of her student’s everyday actions. Says Brogan, “we live in a society where so much is negative. And I wanted to turn it around so the students could be positive. If our students can be positive by seeing us doing positive things, then we must be doing something right”.
Shannon and her students continue to strive to eliminate the perceived “disconnect” between KSU and the surrounding community. They truly are “Frankfort’s University” and embody the spirit of giving that already existed in Frankfort residents and businesses.
Frankfort truly is an amazing community. KSU is a spectacular college with students that have been described as having “hearts of gold”. They need the guidance of the surrounding community. And the Frankfort community needs their young insight and enthusiasm. So, pay it forward Frankfort! And thank a KSU student or faculty member for bringing Frankfort a spirit of love and sharing that can last beyond the 100 days of the initial Pay It Forward Frankfort Campaign. For more information about KSU and programs that they offer, log onto their Facebook Page or their website at http://kysu.edu.