Ithaca College students are lending a helping hand to girls in Liberia to keep them in the classroom and off the streets.
Freshman Grace Schroeder recently led a group of passionate students to provide girls in Liberia with an education by encouraging students on campus to “sign away” meals through their meal plan by signing a sheet with their student ID number.
From the beginning of March to the end of April, Schroeder raised a total of $5,946 to benefit the More Than Me Foundation, a small nonprofit organization that raises money to send girls in Liberia to school to combat the sexual exploitation they would otherwise face.
Katie Meyler, founder of the More Than Me Foundation and a Northern New Jersey native, founded the nonprofit in 2007 while she was living in she slums of West Point, Liberia. Meyler lived with 80 orphans, whose greatest wish, she said, was to go to school.
Meyler said the public schools in Liberia are unreliable and private schools are expensive. More than 60 percent of children in Liberia do not go to school. Seventy percent of those children are girls. Left uneducated and jobless on the streets, these girls often resort to prostitution in order to support themselves and their families. The More Than Me Foundation pays for the tuition, uniforms and school lunches for girls to go to private schools.
Meyler challenged the program’s college interns to raise funds for the foundation’s One More Day campaign, which is centered around the fact that it only costs $5 to pay for one day of school for a girl in Liberia. Donating $5 would keep one girl off the streets and away from prostitution for an additional day.
During the course of 50 days, Schroeder collected donations and encouraged students to sign away more than 3,400 meals.
Schroeder said she immediately latched onto the idea of doing a meal sign-away. Students could donate the money normally used to pay for their Monday breakfasts — events she likes to call “More Than Me Mondays.”
“Students are literally giving their meal away while they’re at school getting an education, and they’re helping other girls in Liberia get that same thing,” she said.
The college will write a check to the foundation every week for each of the meals signed away for that week.
While promoting the foundation, Schroeder said she was shocked by the number of people willing to help. Since she began promoting the organization on campus, she said she continues to find more and more students who are eager to volunteer for the foundation.
“I’ve met so many great people with so much love in their hearts for helping people, and it’s just really inspiring,” she said.
Eight other students have joined Schroeder since she began the organization on campus. She hopes to make it an official group on campus next year, making it the first college chapter of the organization in the nation.
Meyler said she is proud of Schroeder’s efforts on campus and amazed that she took the One More Day campaign to the next level.
“It’s really huge that she came up with such a creative idea, and she’s using her energy for something beautiful,” Meyler said, “I’m excited to see where this goes because this is just the beginning.”
Freshman Jodi Silberstein, a More Than Me volunteer, said Schroeder’s enthusiasm for the foundation is evident in her actions.
“You can really tell that she loves what she’s doing,” she said.
Schroeder said her first experience with the foundation inspired her to join the cause.
“I put my whole heart and soul into it to help them,” she said.