“I’ve personally overcome homelessness on three occasions and moved 35 times, and I’m 21 so it’s more moves than age,” said Kaitlyn Runion, one of the organizers and founders of the UNCG donation closet, Daisy Trader.
Inspired by Runion’s personal struggle to overcome poverty, the concept of Daisy Trader was formed, in part from UNCG’s Guarantee Scholar program, a scholarship program that offers a full ride to first-generation college students in need of financial support, and students 100 percent at poverty.
“I’m a Guarantee Scholar, so a UNCG guarantee is a scholarship for students who are 100 percent at poverty, but high excelling, meaning they had really good grades in high school, did really well on the SAT, they just can’t afford to go to school. Most of our students come from a lot of hardship, different backgrounds, and sometimes they don’t have family that can help them get the things that they need for school. [Recently], we had a freshman come in this year, who had nothing. They were homeless, they didn’t have the things that they needed. They couldn’t afford to get bedding, they couldn’t afford to get pajamas for college, and that really struck a sore spot, because I had a church group donate my belongings,” said Runion.
However, the scholarship did not necessarily have a plan for how to address and help students without basic necessities, which is where the idea for Daisy Trader Daisy spawned.
“I came up with the idea [for Daisy Trader] with Tyshea Lewis, she is our coordinator for the scholarship program. It’s not just myself, we get about 35 students on average, each year, that come on to the scholarship program. Not all of them have the same hardships; some of them do have bedding or clothing, but some of them have nothing. There’s multiple students, and I know there’s students on campus that don’t have this scholarship, and they go through the same thing. So, this is just more of a way to speak out for them and to help them get the things that they need, without having that negative stigma of having to ask for help,” said Runion.
Initially, Runion said, with the help of Ben Kunka, organizer of Cram and Scram bins, a donation center where students can rid themselves of lightly used, unwanted items when moving out of on-campus housing at the end of each spring semester, Daisy Trader began to take form.
“It [Daisy Trader] started off through word of mouth, we’re going to start doing a coat drive through the McIver Building. We’re going to start reaching out to our alumni as well, the class of ‘64 is who helps us set up scholarship endowments, and I have a personal connection with some of the ladies [from that class], and I’ll be speaking with them about how to get that out. And we’re having a Go Fund Me page go live next week,” said Runion.
While Daisy Trader is new, Runion explained the hope to expand the project to be able to give to students financially as well.
“We have yet to fully give [a scholarship through Daisy Trader], [but] we have one student who has received items from it, and I can say that that student said, as they were leaving when they received a bag of bedding and some pajama bottoms, ‘I can sleep warm tonight.’ And that’s what this is about, giving students the opportunity to live as students, and not have to stress about where their things will come from, or not having the things that they need. This is basic human rights, everyone should have clothing, everyone should have bedding, everyone should be able to have the opportunity to pursue their goals and dreams,” Runion said.
As for how Daisy Trader began to find momentum, Runion credits finding students and staff who were willing to assist and partner with founders of Daisy Trader during its formation last May.
“When we found out about this incoming freshman that wasn’t going to be able to have as many items as they would need, so we developed the idea, we worked with different people on campus to try to get it formulated,” said Runion.
Runion emphasized the importance of Daisy Trader as a means to help motivate students, who grew up impoverished and without materials, to succeed academically and feel as though they would be able to compete with their classmates.
“To me, the poverty and hardships I experienced were just more motivation to do better in school and to get to the place where I needed to be, [in order] to get to college, and to get a career and to get a degree, so that I could better myself, and my future for my family, for one day when I have that. I also use that, my opportunity to be here in school, to help other people.
This isn’t just my story, it’s everyone else’s. This is a way for me to give back, and at the same time while I pursue my degree and my goals.”
For more information about Daisy Trader, officials can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.