SPRING SUMMIT 2003 - The One Who Gives

April Collins requires expensive medical procedures not covered by insurance. She was working three jobs and carrying 21 credits so she could graduate and get a full-time job. Grants-in-Aid assistance relieved the pressure and assured she had food. April said, “As long as I live, I’ll live my life to the fullest. I’m so grateful for the grants that I’ve received.”

To read April’s full story, visit www.byui.edu/giving/grants.

Jonathan Crocker, like many students who leave home for the first time, got a bank account but lacked money management skills. He soon had an overdrawn account and service charges. He came to Liz for advice. She coordinated plans to cover the overdrafts. Jonathan faithfully repaid the debt. “He’s a good young man trying to do what’s right,” Liz says.

To read April’s full story, visit www.byui.edu/giving/grants.

very time I visit with Liz Jacobson, I feel uplifted. It’s hard not to when you consider her job.
    For the last seven of her fifteen years working in the Financial Aid Office at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Liz has been the one individual who students are sent to see when they are in need of financial assistance. And she is the one who has the privilege of helping them with grants made possible by generous alumni and friends.
     “I love my job,” Liz says. “I love meeting those students and making sure their needs are filled; I look forward to coming on campus everyday. I can feel the Spirit here.”
    Because of her love for these students and the nature of her interaction with them, hundreds of students call her friend. She has heard their stories. She has considered their needs. She has seen them—spirit to spirit—and has recognized their sincerity, and their worth.
     “Many students still keep in contact with me so I have been able to follow their lives for several years after they have left BYU–Idaho,” she says. “It is rewarding to see them enter their careers and raise their families.”
    One student she was able to offer assistance to several years ago had come from an abusive home. He looked forward to his college experience and wanted to run track “but he just didn’t have anything—let alone family support,” Liz says. “We were able to help him out here and there with housing and other needs until he eventually started getting track scholarships. He was just a survivor.”
    This young man soon went on a mission, returned honorably, married a wonderful girl, started a family, graduated from another university, and now teaches and coaches track in high school.
    But that’s not the end of the story. Liz adds, “Well, he walked in here two years ago with a young man and said, ‘Liz, this boy is in the same situation I was in. He wants to go to school.’ So we circled around again, and I helped this young man who was from a very, very poor situation.”
     “I don’t know where he’d be if we hadn’t been able to help him back then. I really don’t,” Liz says, “and it was just amazing to me to see him walk in the office with that young man after so many years. He was so grateful, so grateful for what he received. He never forgot.”

The Process of Finding
With so many students needing some degree of assistance, Liz relies on referrals from others to help her find those she should help.
     “I don’t go out and find a lot of my students. I often receive phone calls from our financial aid advisors, other employees across campus, bishops, and friends who are concerned for certain students having financial difficulties,” says Liz.
    Sometimes the Counseling Center calls to tell her they have discovered through meeting with a student that part of the stress he or she is experiencing comes from having a difficult time finding the money to even buy things as essential as groceries.
     “The dean of students has also called me a few times when a student has shown up to withdraw because of financial reasons,” she says. “We have been able to take care of them, too.”
    There are times, however, when she takes the initiative to search them out. “Some don’t even know there is help available,” she says. “In December students are trying to register for winter semester, and if they owe money the computer system won’t allow them to do so. So I do a search in the computer and find the students who are in that circumstance. If I am able to determine that they are having difficult financial problems beyond their control, I give them assistance from the Grants-in-Aid fund.”
    When Liz shared this with me, I had to wonder if the timing had just a little bit to do with it being so close to Christmas.
     “I get touching letters from students and from their parents when I do this,” she says. “They say things like, ‘This gift has blessed our family so much. We didn’t know how we were going to pay for schooling. It was Christmastime you know, and we didn’t have the money to pay for much, let alone the costs of college. You have taken a huge burden off our family.’”
    I stop short of calling her Mrs. Claus. But I think it when I see her now.

The Gift of Discernment
Unlike the rigid requirements of federal grants, the Financial Aid Office at BYU–Idaho has some flexibility, “and we have compassion and love and caring,” Liz adds. But that means making an awful lot of judgement calls. Liz has so much compassion, I had to wonder how in the world she is able to make her Solomon-like decisions. Certainly not every student gets the help they ask for.
    When I asked her about this she said, “I think I’ve really been blessed with discernment. And I pray for that everyday...every single day.”
     “I’m responsible for a lot of money,” she said, “and I have been given stewardship over it, so I have to rely on the Spirit to help me. And some of those decisions I cannot make that day. I have to work on them. And I’ve told students, ‘I’ll have to think about it; you come back and we’ll talk tomorrow.’”
     “I’ve really been blessed, and I don’t feel like I’ve be allowed to make too many errors in my decisions. If I ever have though, it would be in favor of the student,” she says.
    She thinks for a few seconds and tells me there was “that one time” when a girl came into her office and told her she needed some money. “And I gave it to her,” Liz says. “And about two or three weeks later, she came to my office again and shut the door and sat down and said, ‘I need to talk to you.’”
    The young lady then explained that when she had come the first time to ask for help, she hadn’t been completely truthful. She said to Liz, “I actually needed the money for something other than what I told you.” When Liz questioned her further, she learned that what the girl needed the money for was just as legitimate as her original claim. “I told her how much I admired her courage in coming back to talk to me, but that her needs were valid.”
     “I can empathize with them. I’ve had hard times in my own life,” says Liz. “They are sincere, honest, good kids; and they’re so very grateful for the assistance we are able to give them. They do not consider it lightly. Most of them would like to personally meet and thank the people who have been so generous and kind, but many of the grant awards are given anonymously.”

Private and General Grants
When a private Grant-in-Aid is used to help a student, the recipient writes the benefactors a brief letter expressing his or her gratitude and explains a little about themselves and their educational pursuits at BYU–Idaho.
    In the case of these private grants, specific criteria is determined by the donor for those who are to receive it. “Particular people have a strong desire to help a certain type of student,” explains Liz.
    There are private grants, for example, established by individuals and earmarked for students from large families and others for married students. Many stipulate a specific geographic area or ethnic background a student must be from. A significant grant was established a few years ago for single mothers and another exists for students with emergency needs. Only a few of the over 100 accounts are based only on need and don’t have other restrictions attached.
    As Liz and I talked in my office, one of the secretaries came in and asked if Liz could step out for a moment. She did and came back with a shy grin. Apparently she had approved giving a young man money to buy a coat the day before. All the money he and his parents could spare was used getting him to school, and he didn’t have a winter coat. “He was freezing to death,” she says. “Nine degrees and no coat.” So he tracked her down to thank her and ask if he could give her a hug.
    When someone gives, in any amount, to the general Grants-in-Aid fund, it is added to an account from which Liz can draw and award as warranted by immediate needs—like the young man who needed a coat.

Lessons Learned Through Receiving
The young men and women who are blessed to come to BYU–Idaho do so seeking an education—beyond that of book-learning, beyond good lectures, even beyond valuable secular knowledge—they sincerely thirst for spiritually sound wisdom in an atmosphere of brotherly love. Grants-in-Aid, made possible by hundreds of thoughtful alumni and friends, open doors of educational opportunities that too many students would not otherwise have.
     “I tell these young men and young women that they’ve got to be in school,” Liz says. “There’s such a need for them to have an education now because they never know what’s ahead in their lives.”
    Of course those who get involved with helping students by giving to the Board-approved priorities at BYU–Idaho, like Grants-in-Aid, have all kinds of motivations. A giving heart is prompted in diverse ways. Some have gone through a particular trial or have watched someone else struggle and decide to offer aid to others who happen to be in similar situations. No matter what the incentive, each gift makes a difference.
     “Getting these students an education takes them and their family into a better status for the rest of their lives,” says Liz.
     “I don’t find any students who are not grateful for it. Most of them are extremely touched. Some of them come to me because their bishop tells them to. When I offer them a grant to help them out they say, ‘Well, I didn’t know that’s why I was coming here. I didn’t know I was coming to get help.’ And I tell them we’re willing to give them a little boost. And that someday when they’re able, when they’ve got a good job and feel ready, then they can give back to help someone else.”
     “I tell them we always need new people deciding to donate,” Liz says. “And they realize that their participation will broaden the donor base. They know they will have the responsibility to join those generous individuals who give toward Grants-in-Aid.”

Blessings Abound
Countless students are the beneficiaries of those who make Grants-in-Aid possible today. They consider their experience at BYU–Idaho as a blessing in their lives. And Liz counts her blessings as well. As she facilitates the goodness of others, each day of interacting with the students and giving to them what so many others have given is a blessings.
     “The impact is truly amazing when you give to this program,” notes Liz. “I can think of no finer way to bless the lives of young people who are in need of just a little assistance. And, in the end, it’s not just this one student who is blessed but an entire family—for generations.”
    Liz Jacobson is essentially the one on the front line who has the privilege of completing the gift that you and others have made possible. For this, the students thank you. And we thank you.

For additional information regarding Grands-in-Aid, and stories of recipiants like April and Jonathan, visit www.byui.edu/giving/grants

You may also request information about the other philanthropic Objectives and Priorities at BYU–Idaho, LDS Foundation or planned giving and estate planning by contacting:

    LDS Foundation at BYU–Idaho
    220 Kimball Building
    Rexburg, ID 83460-1655