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CHANGING THE WORLD What your investment in UT makes possible parts of the world. One penny buys one pencil, creating an opportunity for literacy in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. By participating, young donors learn the importance of working together and helping others. It was this giving opportunity combined with the social and emotional learning curriculum taught at UT Elementary that opened the door of giving for Liesl. “I wanted to help,” she says. “I did chores and saved change in my piggy bank.” UT Elementary describes social and emotional learning as “the capacity to recognize and manage emotions, solve problems effectively, and establish positive relationships with others.” Liesl’s former homeroom teacher, Rashid Amrani-Khaldi, BS ’02, believes the social-emotional component is just as important as the academics in school. “We seem to all agree that children need academics to negotiate the challenges of real life,” he says. “Many of those same challenges elicit an emotional response. It’s important for

Thanks to Liesl and other donors, UT Elementary was able to open

EVERY PENNY COUNTS A Little Longhorn at UT Elementary digs deep to support her school. BY CO U RT N EY S EV E NE R

Above: Now in its 12th year,

UT Elementary strives to teach to the spirit of every child. Liesl Geiger, at right, was exposed early on to the idea of philanthropy and helping others. Opposite: UT students including Tyler Vender, top, express their gratitude for alumni and friends’ support at the annual Thanks Day campus event. CREDITS: From left: UT

Elementary (2); Alison Eden; Callie Richmond (2)

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o many , pennies have lost any and all value .

M ost


pass them by without bothering to pick them up. Not third-grader Liesl Geiger. She believes every coin in her piggy bank counts, especially when it can be donated to a good cause.

Liesl has known the importance of a penny since her kindergarten year, when she gave all of her collected change to her alma mater, the University of Texas Elementary School, as part of a fundraiser for new buildings to replace portable spaces. Thanks to Liesl and other donors, the school was able to open the first phase of a new facility the following year. Fundraising is now underway for the second phase. UT Elementary, which operates under UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, was founded in 2003 as part of the UT System’s Every Child, Every Advantage initiative to support P-16 education. Located in East Austin, it is a research-based demonstration school with a track record of success in serving urban children.

The school, whose mantra is “Teach to the spirit of every child,” is free to students and has a lottery-based admission system for children living in five East Austin ZIP codes. It primarily serves low-income students who will be the first in their families to attend college. “Liesl was exposed early on to the idea of philanthropy and helping others,” says her mother, Suzanne Geiger. “One of the classrooms in the older grade levels was collecting [for] Pennies for Peace. This campaign trickled down to the younger grades, and everyone was invited to contribute.” Pennies for Peace is a program of the Central Asia Institute. It aims to teach children that while a penny may be nearly worthless in the United States, it can benefit children in other

the first phase of a new facility. children to learn from an early age how to negotiate their feelings and the feelings of others.” The focus of this curriculum is acknowledging feelings and figuring out appropriate ways to express them. “By the time our kids are in third, fourth, and fifth grade they have a fairly broad emotional vocabulary and use it frequently,” Amrani-Khaldi says. “It’s a special quality to have at such a young age.” The Geigers chose UT Elementary for Liesl because it offers a variety of programs that embrace music and culture, such as Digital Storytelling and UT’s String Project. “We were happy to learn about UT Elementary when we did,” she says. “We fell in love with the school because we saw that it was providing a nurturing and safe environment for our daughter, and we felt an instant connection with our teachers and administrators, who have always been beyond caring.” Since her initial gift, Liesl continues to be involved in UT Elementary fundraising efforts, always contributing her own money to the cause. “Liesl is a remarkable young girl,” says Amrani-Khaldi. “Other students can look to her for support and confidence, and she benefits tremendously from the wide range of culture and experience.” Learn more about UT Elementary and how to join Liesl in supporting its mission at

Students to campaign participants: Thanks!


t the heart of the University of Texas are the students who step onto campus from around the world and from different backgrounds to share a singular experience. They come to learn, to share, to ask questions, to solve problems, and to grow. While that fundamental UT experience will not change anytime soon, it will now be open to more people than ever before. That is because donors funded 846 new student support endowments during the Campaign for Texas. Those new opportunities—plus many other student-focused enhancements made possible by donations, from upgraded facilities to new ways to learn—mean that today’s students and those to come have much to be grateful for. In the wake of the historic $3 billion campaign’s successful completion, the Thanks Day event that is held on campus each fall took on special significance this year. Thanks Day is an opportunity for students in the know to educate their peers about UT’s funding structure and the importance of philanthropy in its ability to teach and conduct groundbreaking research. Members of the Class of 2015 and beyond reflected on how alumni and friends came together to help transform their educational experience. “I never dreamed that anyone would help me go to school,” says Davika Reid, a graduate student in the School of Nursing, but that is exactly what happened, she says, and she is thankful for every donor who stepped up to help people like her—students from nontraditional backgrounds—to find their passion and shine. “If it weren’t for all the people giving to UT, I probably wouldn’t have been able to

“I never dreamed that anyone would help me go to school.” be here,” says sophomore Eduardo Moreno, a government major. “It’s helping me create a better life for myself and for my family.” The Thanks Day effort underscores the fact that tuition and fees alone account for only about a quarter of UT’s budget. The remaining 75 percent comes from a variety of sources, including taxpayers, state revenue, research grants, and private donations. About 10 percent of total funding comes solely from donations. “I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated in the past eight years,” says Tyler Vender, a business senior and scholarship recipient. “We wouldn’t be able to change the world without your impact.” The Campaign for Texas has ended, but UT students still need your help to succeed and thrive. Visit and give today.

s e p t e m b e r | o c t o b e r 2011

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Changing the World - Jan-Feb 2015  

Featured in The Alcalde, Jan/Feb 2015

Changing the World - Jan-Feb 2015  

Featured in The Alcalde, Jan/Feb 2015