York to the Power of 50: Call Centre makes a huge impact in students’ lives

“Why not $10,000 this year?” said an alumna recently to a student caller working at York’s Call Centre. She was making a donation to York, the largest single gift ever received through the Call Centre. Every year, thousands of students receive much needed financial assistance thanks to the generosity of York supporters. The assistance defrays the cost of tuition, books and living expenses for many students.

“The most important thing for the Call Centre is not simply to get a donation; it’s to connect with the person, to get them involved in what’s happening on campus," says student caller Damian Brown (left), a second-year political science student. "It’s important to create a relationship with alumni.” 

Brown arrived at York from his native Jamaica after having been awarded with the 2005 International “Circle of Scholars” scholarship. “I felt like I owed the University something. I felt as if I received some of the funds raised by the Call Centre when I got my scholarship.” He felt that working at the centre would be like helping to pay back the funds he had been awarded.

The Call Centre employs about 65 students at any one time. Students at the centre average ten and one half hours a week over three evenings with each of them making about 140 calls per shift.

Aidan Flatley (BA ’78), York to the Power of 50 Annual Fund Team co-Chair, enjoys working with the students of the Call Centre. “It’s great to see their commitment to York. Their personal communication with alumni is instrumental in raising the funds that create the scholarships that many York students so desperately need.” 

Vanessa Rogers (right), a criminology and law & society double major and another student caller, was fortunate to have received two scholarships when she began her studies at York. She says the scholarships helped immensely in her first year. Rogers started at York in the midst of a double cohort of secondary school graduates. Competition to stay in the program was fierce. She succeeded and has advanced in the program.

Rogers didn’t receive any scholarships in her second or third years. As a result, during her third year, she worked 53 hours a week at two jobs on top of her full class schedule. “I was only sleeping about four hours a night, studying all the time,” says Rogers.  She thankfully received a work-study position in her fourth year which reduced her work schedule to 40 hours a week. Rogers knows first-hand the impact a scholarship, or its absence, can have.

Besides scholarships and bursaries, money donated through the Call Centre supports a variety of other programs and services such as the York Leadership Conference and York’s international student programs and services, libraries, research, sport and recreation and new initiatives within faculties.

Terrie-Lynne Devonish (BA ‘92, LLB ‘95), York to the Power of 50 Annual Fund Team co-Chair, has visited the student callers to encourage and praise their efforts. “As an alumna, I know the importance of ensuring that York has sufficient funds to hire and retain the best faculty and have the right facilities for students. I was really impressed with the drive of the student callers and the real commitment to York University that these students have.”

Right: Terrie-Lynne Devonish (left) and Aidan Flatley at the launch of the York to the Power of 50 campaign

Donations through the Call Centre vary in size, but every little bit counts because they have an enormous impact on the lives of students.

It all begins with a simple "Hello". Connections are made and, in the end, both student callers and alumni are making an enormous impact and helping to redefine the possible at York.