Kristi Benson, 18, a freshman at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, created a non-profit corporation that has raised more than $34,000 to provide essential educational materials to public schools and students in her rural county that cannot afford to buy them. Kristi said she has always been aware of students coming to school without the tools they need to learn. “I had an idea of a way to help bridge the gap between those who have tools and those who have none,” she said, and decided to follow the teachings of Gandhi to become “the change you wish to see.” Kristi created the “Beaverhead County Angel Fund” and began appealing for donations of money and supplies through news articles, promotional speeches and newsletters. She also raised money with activities such as a Halloween booth at a community party and “Denim Fridays” at schools, and attracted additional funds from United Way and her high school’s honor society. The proceeds were used to supply every school with “Angel Fund Tubs” filled with calculators, backpacks, notebooks, crayons and other items. In addition, a radio appeal by Kristi for gently used computers and printers helped six schools develop technology programs and connect to the Internet. She has since expanded her influence beyond her county, and is now advising teens in eastern Washington and northern Montana on starting their own Angel Funds. Her charity has raised more than $38,700, funds that have impacted children in need throughout the county.
Last spring, Kristi graduated valedictorian of her class at Beaverhead County High School and she won the most prestigious award of the school, the Alumni Cup. This award is presented to a senior who demonstrates outstanding Leadership, Service and Scholarship. Kristi was accepted in the Hogan Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at Gonzaga University. She continues to work with her charity from her campus. She is studying Business with an emphasis in Leadership. Her desire is to direct her charity to become active nationally. She is on a path to do so by learning about the business world and enriching her general education.