ST. GEORGE — As a way to show connection and celebrate recent achievements, volunteers from Dixie State University assembled and hand-delivered approximately 1,450 gift boxes to recent high school graduates who applied to attend the university in the fall.
Jay Sorensen, admissions director for the university, told St. George News that after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the soft closures of schools, they started brainstorming different ideas for outreach efforts. Normally the admissions team would have been engaging with high school students in person.
“We were racking our brains trying to figure out what we could do to show the kids that we’re thinking of them,” he said. “This is a great time to acknowledge the chapter they just completed but also to look forward to the chapter that’s coming.”
The idea for the gift boxes was spurred during a meeting when someone said that they just needed to figure out a way to tip their hats to the graduates – and in this case, one of the gifts to incoming students was literally a specifically branded hat.
The hats bore the name of the student’s high school on top of the logo and Dixie State on the bottom as a way of saying, “This is where you were, and here’s where you’re going.”
Almost 90 people volunteered to help with this effort, Sorensen said, whether that was helping in the delivery or assembling of the boxes.
“We had a bunch of student workers who have really wanted to get involved and reach out.”
After putting out a call for help, they were able to put together around 1,500 boxes in less than three days. Sorensen said they had no idea what to expect when they sent out a letter for help.
“All of the sudden we had 70 people, and it had only been a day,” he said. “It was pretty humbling to see the response to this. It was student workers. It was deans. It was the president (and) his chief of staff. There was no title too big or too small to go out and interact with the students.”
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Over the course of a few days, volunteers hand-delivered around 1,450 boxes with the special hat inside, along with a few other branded items to Southern Utah high school graduates who had applied to Dixie State.
The boxes also contained a postcard that said, “Hats off to you, Grad!” with a message from DSU President Richard Williams acknowledging this unique time and congratulating them on their significant achievement.
Sorenson said they are very hopeful for fall and anticipate to see a great class. He also said that the motivation behind this campaign was not in seeking a return for investment.
“There are students that I know who applied for Dixie, but they are not necessarily going to come here. They might be going to another state’s school. And we were alright with that,” he said. “Yes, we hope they come to Dixie, but ultimately we did this because it was the right thing to do. It was a small token of acknowledging their experience.”
Sorensen said if there is one thing he has seen since interacting with high school seniors during this time, it’s that they are really craving the college experience.
“I think these seniors, in particular, really want the college experience because the tail end of their high school year they missed out on the athletic events, they missed out on these rites of passage, the graduation ceremony, just the fun that is your senior year,” he said. “So I think that they are almost more eager – some of them – to go to college than they might have been otherwise.”
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