Soon after the tragic 2008 automobile death of Longmont High School senior Kyle Metcalf and University of Colorado Denver freshman Caitlin Epple, much of the Longmont community was in shock—including Larkin Poynton, a close friend of both.
"After a while, me and a lot of the community took it as something bitter, but also sweet," Poynton said. "The school united around them. Instead of saying, 'What are we going to do now?,' we decided, 'Let's have fun and live how they would have.'"
Poynton channeled his energy into philanthropy. He helped organize a local "Ride Yo Trike" event, collecting 75 donated tricycles for a holiday-giving program. In recognition of such spirit, the CU-Boulder-bound Poynton was awarded the Asa Iokepa De Neeve scholarship in 2009 — in honor of a Longmont High student who died in 1999.
Once at CU-Boulder, after a fall 2009 meeting with his scholarship donor (who works at the Leeds School of Business), Poynton took his desire to honor his late friends a step further.
Poynton set up a meeting early this year with CU Foundation development officer TJ Rapoport, who told him what he would need to do to establish a scholarship. Then he started doing it. Quickly.
"Literally, from the moment he left my office after the first visit, it was me trying to keep up with Larkin," Rapoport said.
Within a month, he had raised $5,000. A donor from California then matched that total, increasing the pool to $10,000. A Facebook page he set up for the scholarship grew to 1,258 members, and the list of donors on his scholarship blog grew to more than 90.
As of this month, the scholarship effort has raised $15,000 — enabling the first scholarship, in the amount of $500, to be awarded this fall to a Longmont High student entering CU-Boulder in fall 2010 who participates in art and music, volunteers in the community and demonstrates a personal graciousness.
"As a foundation whose purpose is to raise money to support CU, it's inspiring to work with students like Larkin," Rapoport said.
Many of these gifts have come in small increments from people whose desire to help surpasses their means.
"It's great when people give you $5 — when they sacrifice their burrito for the week, or their Pepsi for the week," Poynton said. "A family in Longmont, whom my dad has known forever and is not wealthy by any standard, sent me a check for $25. Those are the ones that mean so much to me."
Poynton's goal is to reach the $25,000 minimum to endow the scholarship — enabling a $1,000 annual scholarship to be awarded in perpetuity. It's an impressive effort for an undeclared freshman who juggles fundraising with work teaching choreography at a dance studio, duties as president of Libby Hall, and hobbies such as drums. And, of course, his classes. But Poynton says he was just following his gut.
"There's a piece of me that felt, 'Larkin, you feel strongly about something. Do something about it,'" Poynton said. "My advice to someone who wants to start a scholarship effort like this: Reach out to everyone you can. Don't give up. Persist. Persist. Persist."