If you attended a small college, you know that the students, professors, and campus workers tend to form a close-knit community.
Within the first few months, you start to see the same people walking around campus. Eventually, even the coffee guy at your local café knows you by name. It’s that sense of familiarity and easy comfort that turn a school into a home away from home.
And that is exactly what Muhlenberg College dining hall employee, Awa, has done for her students — made their school truly feel like home. Now, the grateful students are returning the favor.
As Muhlenberg junior, Jake Gordon, told Babble, Awa is beloved by all “because of her infectious smile, genuine kindness, and uncanny ability to remember every student’s name.”
Having spoken on a daily basis for three years now, Awa and Gordon have gotten to know each other well.
One day, Gordon happened to ask how Awa would spend her time after the school year was over. Awa replied that she was saving up to visit family in Senegal, Africa. In fact, Awa saves up every year to take her immediate family back home, and described the three-week excursion as the “highlight of her year.”
On any other day, this would have been the end of it. Awa would go on to swipe another student into the dining hall and Jake would go sit with his friends and enjoy his dinner.
But, as Jake walked through the crowded dining hall, he had an idea. “If everyone in this room gave $5, we could pay for the trip back home as a ‘thank you’ for always being such a wonderful person.”
So in an effort to give back to the woman who had always been so kind to him, Gordon set up a GoFundMePage to raise money for Awa’s annual trip.
With the help of his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and his girlfriend, Shira, news of the page quickly spread throughout campus. While their original goal of $10K may have seemed lofty for a bunch of college kids, Gordon and his friends were happily surprised to see that they raised over $1K in the first two hours!
Since then, the page has reached its goal of $10K in just six days from a total of 550 people. Gordon told Babble that the surge in donations was “a testament to Awa.”
Demonstrating the students’ love for their spirited dining hall worker, many included a note of appreciation along with their donation:
“Thank you Awa for being the ray of sunshine in all of our lives!”
“Awa, my Muhlenberg experience just wouldn’t have been the same without you. Your smile always brightened my day!”
Gordon also shared his own fond memory with Awa, dating back to his freshman year. It was finals week during his first semester and he had gotten sick. Needless to say, he was struggling to make it through the stressful time while feeling under the weather. That was when Awa came up to Gordon and gave him a holiday card wishing him well.
“She by no means had to do this kind act,” Gordon said of the memory. “But regardless, it made me so happy and reinvigorated the energy I needed to finish strong.”
“I always knew she was special,” Gordon continued. “But that was when I realized what a difference she was making on so many people.”
Before putting his plan into motion, Gordon had gone to Awa to make sure she was comfortable with his generous endeavor. While Awa initially protested, saying that Gordon didn’t have to, she eventually conceded with much appreciation. Gordon has kept the success of the GoFundMe page a secret, however, and plans to surprise her with the money today!
Directly after her shift, Gordon and many other students will be waiting in a common area — ready with the gift and lots of hugs. Gordon hopes “she can see with her own eyes how many people love her and are invested in her story.”
Above all else, it was important to Gordon to bring his community together for a positive reason. Too often it takes an adverse situation to bring people together, but Gordon is trying to change all of that.
“In this day, where hate and divisiveness are so prevalent, it is refreshing to know a person exists that is full of only love and compassion, and that a community like this can appreciate that,” said Gordon.
Simple acts of kindness are one of the most impactful things you can do in this world, and it’s so heartening to know that people like Gordon and Awa are out there.More On