The Rutgers Alumni Association (RAA) and the School of Arts and Sciences Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) recently collaborated on a robe drive initiative that will assist in providing graduation robes and accessories to students in financial need.
The WeaR It Forward program is supported by alumni robe donations and hopes to initially aid at least 50 students, according to Jordan Cohen, co-chair of the RAA's membership services committee, and Lynell James, senior program coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences EOF program.
They said that the main goal of WeaR It Forward is to alleviate the financial burden for students who may lack the resources to purchase graduation regalia.
Cohen and James said the School of Arts and Sciences EOF Program has always aspired to create a robe donation drive in which alumni could give back to the Rutgers community and support graduating students during their commencement ceremony.
The School of Arts and Sciences EOF had already been assisting its program’s student scholars, many of whom are low-income, first-generation and transfer students, they said.
"(The School of Arts and Sciences) EOF has always supported their scholars who needed financial assistance to purchase regalia but envisioned a more sustainable program that could benefit the community at large," Cohen and James said.
After the RAA became the official alumni organization for the School of Arts and Sciences in 2018, it worked with the University's alumni department to connect with the School of Arts and Sciences EOF program, they said.
This partnership was originally recommended by the former president of the RAA and School of Arts and Sciences EOF alumni, Danielle Bechta.
The WeaR It Forward robe drive was launched with a single donation box during a Homecoming tailgate that the RAA and School of Arts and Sciences co-hosted, Cohen and James said.
They said this implementation had the primary goal of spreading awareness about this initiative to Rutgers alumni, students and the greater community.
Cohen and James said the WeaR It Forward program has plans to increase marketing for the robe drive by creating several drop-off points at various campus locations and planning events for alumni to donate.
The initiative will be ongoing this academic year, and they said they expect the program to grow annually as more alumni and students become involved.
The WeaR It Forward program currently has three locations for robe donations. One on the College Avenue campus, one on Livingston campus and one in the RAA office in New Brunswick, according to the WeaR It Forward website.
Alumni can donate graduation robes in good condition to these locations by either physically dropping them off or mailing them.
Additionally, donors can send a personal note that congratulates the student receiving the robe and a picture from the alum’s own graduation, according to the website.
While the WeaR It Forward program cannot currently accept monetary donations, the School of Arts and Sciences EOF program can accept donations to buy graduation caps and gowns for its scholars.
Cohen and James said the importance of this initiative lies in making graduating from Rutgers a more accessible endeavor for students in financial need.
By way of this robe drive initiative, they said students can also engage with their alumni network, and alumni are given the chance to deepen their link with Rutgers students.
"When students become graduates, they’re not leaving the Rutgers community — they’re joining the alumni family," Cohen and James said.