Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Students win $25,000 grant with viral video to send 70 Ugandan girls to school

Correction appended.

The University's chapter of She's the First won a $25,000 grant from the Project for Awesome video competition on Jan. 13 to help girls attend school in Uganda.

During Project for Awesome, thousands of people upload videos advocating for their favorite charities, and the most viewed videos win monetary rewards, according to the group’s website. The Project is a non-profit competition held every December that was started in 2007 by author John Green and his brother, Hank.

She’s the First is an organization that raises money to educate young girls in developing countries.

School of Communication senior Julián Gómez, a newer member of AU’s chapter of She's the First, decided to shoot and submit a short video for the Project for Awesome competition from his home in Miami, Florida. Gómez said he originally hoped that his video would only raise more awareness for She’s the First, inspiring a few people to donate directly to AU’s campaign page.

Instead, the video was so popular and gained so many votes that it propelled the chapter to the top of the Project for Awesome competition.

“It was exciting to talk about an organization that most people hadn't heard of, which made the video more likely to be featured and get people to pay attention and vote,” Gómez said. “I did not at all imagine winning any amount of money, certainly not landing in the top 10 most voted charities out of hundreds of submissions.”

Gómez’s video was featured on the Project for Awesome live stream when the Project for Awesome reached $1 million in fundraising, according to AU's chapter president and College of Arts and Sciences senior Lorraine Magee.

The three-year-old chapter raised $10,000 this year from events and fundraisers, and with the additional $25,000 the chapter will be able to support an estimated 70 young girls to attend primary school at the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda, Magee said.

“I did not at all imagine winning any amount of money, certainly not landing in the top 10 most voted charities out of hundreds of submissions," Gomez said.

The Arlington Academy of Hope, which was founded by residents of Arlington, Virginia, commits to having 50 percent female enrollment at the school, she said.

“Aside from the incredible amount of money, I am also glad that the Project for Awesome has brought greater publicity to She's the First, which will hopefully mean more people across the country and the world being inspired to support girls' education in their communities and abroad," Gómez said.

A previous version of this article incorrectly said that the video received so many views when it was votes. The article also incorrectly stated that the video received 1 million views when it was the national project reaching $1 million. The article has been updated to reflect these changes.

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