Junior Kickstarts a Dream to Study Away
By Josh Daube ‘11
It will come as no surprise to those who follow Bard College at Simon’s Rock in the news to see Alexis Marie Wint ’09 headlining another article. For a rare change, this article is not about the art that she produces or the spoken word poetry performances that she has given, but rather touching a topic much closer to home—even though right now, she is 3000 miles (or 5000 kilometers) away living the Mancunian life in, where else, but Manchester, Great Britain.
The dream had always been to go to Manchester, and when asked, Wint had no shortage of reasons as to why she chose the program, “It's one of the signature programs for creative writing at Simon’s Rock so it wasn't a hard decision to make; I have friends who I met through poetry in England, and the Centre for New Writing seemed pretty great online, plus I'd get to break away from the craziness of the Rock, so either way you cut it, it seemed like a good choice.”
As a student with interests in Creative Writing and African-American Studies, the program had yet another appeal. “As I began giving it more thought, Manchester became more and more appealing as it would serve to be the perfect backdrop for my thesis: essentially, a collection of short stories based around my experiences of being a Black woman in another country,” she explained. “The UK has the highest reported rate of interracial relationships, so I knew I would be able to have constant interactions across racial lines great material for my collection.”
In the academic world of higher education it seems like nothing could be more valuable for a young scholar than an educational pilgrimage. The world of finances and budget cuts does not always agree. Nine thousand dollars short of making the dream into a reality, with the deadline for applications approaching, it was time for some creative thinking.
A little creative help from friends
“My friends on campus knew how much Manchester meant to me and hated seeing me so down, so they kept trying to help me find other avenues to either raise the money, or find a different program altogether. My friend Michelle mentioned Kickstarter. At the time I didn't know what it was and just kind of blew it off.” Kickstarter is a website created to help facilitate the process of setting up projects that need funding, projects ranging from charity events to business startups, and everything in between.
Outgoing and very sociable, with many friends and connections in the Simon’s Rock community, Wint took advantage of the Kickstarter platform to the fullest, using it to centralize and promote her $9,000 goal. Over the course of a few weeks, she fielded donations from 168 distinct donators, to raise $10,622, more than $1,500 over her initial goal, covering the Kickstarter fees that she needed to pay off.
In retrospect Alexis says of the endeavor, “The amount of support I received, something as small as a share on facebook, or as big as a monetary donation, coming from students, staff, and faculty alike was overwhelming. It felt good to know that everything I had been doing both on and off campus, academically and socially, was being recognized and rewarded.”
Putting it all out there
But Wint was also quick to point out that, “there was definitely a flip side to that: it was also a bit embarrassing to have to be so transparent, to have to expose myself to the wide reaches of the internet and say, ‘I have this great idea, but I need your help.’ It's the last bit that hurt, the help bit... I was raised to do things for myself, so even though I knew I was giving people product (cd's, thank-you notes, copies of the finished product etc.) back for their money, and every pledge was going towards this really awesome project that I'm working on, it was still really difficult for me to say, ‘I need your help.’” While Kickstarter relies on a donation-based service, creators of projects are given the option to give those who donate to their startup something in return for their generosity. Alexis has a body of published work at her disposal, with some really interesting incentives offered. At the lower tiers of donating things like downloadable poems, personal thank you notes, and copies of her poetry album were offered. The most expensive option (two backers took this route, a testament to the amount of support offered up) offered personal recognition in her in-the-works book as well as character lists and drafts of the completed work.
The story is remarkable not only for the ingenuity Wint exercised, but also to the degree by which the community at large supported her endeavor. It’s not every community that would offer up so much support for an individual’s personal goal. A commitment to higher education is in more than just the institution it is in the ethics of our community’s collective conscious here at Simon’s Rock.