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Senior gifts are important if chosen wisely and carefully

If you have ever wondered where most of the benches on campus come from or who decided it would be a good idea to have swings that face each other, the answer is seniors.

Every year, the graduating class has to leave a mark at Guilford to show their love and commitment to the community one last time. It is also how the College starts making students get into the habit of donating money back to their alma mater. But there is also a thin line between useful senior gifts and senior gifts that prove to be a waste of money.

I believe that as long as each graduating class decides to leave behind things that will be useful for future students, then the senior class gift will continue to be one of my favorite traditions at Guilford. However, if we keep on choosing random objects or more unnecessary benches, then there is no point in asking seniors, as well as other people, to donate their money.

Some students believe the impact really depends on what is done and how it is done.

“I think it is a mix of (good and bad),” said senior Leah Whetten-Goldstein. “I believe it is good to give back to the community, and it’s cute that seniors are improving Guilford a small chunk at a time.”

At the start of every fall semester, a committee is chosen to help graduating students select what they want to leave behind. The committee is mainly comprised of seniors and staff members that help with the donations.

“I think senior gifts are important because by the time we get close to graduating, we need a reminder of the fact that it’s not just the College that has affected us, but that our time here has had an effect on it too,” said gift committee member and senior Jilly Campbell. “I think it’s easy to allow senioritis to make us jaded and tired and just ready to leave. (So) it’s nice to leave something concrete behind that can maybe speak to our nostalgia for the present.

“(And) I think it’s really important that we take advantage of the power we do have to create and leave something that is for the students, by the students. It’s a nice to see a tangible connection of how this campus has changed.”

The committee has extensively tabled in Founders Hall since the beginning of the year asking staff, faculty, upperclassmen and even first-years to give at least $5 to help fund the hammock garden. Donations higher than $5 are also encouraged.

In the past, there were some very special ideas that are still important to current students. The class of ’15 had a $2,000 goal all year long to provide the College with an orchard. They reached $1,724, which was enough to make their gift come true. In March 2016, several students volunteered during a weekend to plant blueberry and blackberry bushes as well as persimmon trees in the Guilford Farm.

The class of ’16 decided to create a trail to the Underground Railroad Tree, one of the most beloved places on campus. The tree is a reminder of the important part in the country’s history this campus played when Quakers helped many African-Americans that were escaping slavery.

“I definitely think it is worth it,”said Allison DeBusk ’16. “I’m really happy with what my class gave and I think almost all of the gifts have given back to the community in a meaningful way.”

The goal was $1,000, but they only reached $250. The lack of money didn’t stop the community from coming together this past March to work on creating the trail that now leads to the tree.

The class of ’14, despite their best intentions for their senior class gift, was thwarted by whoever constructed the swing set they had raised the sum of $1,500 for. The swings showed up for the first time by the lake on fall semester of 2014. The seniors were already gone, but the remaining students were not happy.

The current senior class is raising money for what will become a hammock garden. The idea was lifted from other universities and colleges. Considering how Guilfordians love ENOs, a popular hammock brand made to be attached to a tree, I believe the idea of the class of ’17 will be well received, unless they hire the same person who constructed the swing set.

Overall, the meaning behind the senior gifts is very important for this community.

“I think that leaving a legacy on campus in a physical way isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said senior Emily Haaksma. “I’m hesitant to say that I’m pro-senior gift because I know nothing about it. And I’m definitely not donating money to it because I have like $20 in my bank account right now.

“But this is how I feel.”

Senior gifts are the type of tradition Guilford needs and should keep. However, each senior class should think carefully about what they choose to leave as their legacy. By the way, one of the swings is still broken. Somebody call maintenance please.

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