Gator Nation Day of Giving

Akiya Parks, a first-generation student and Machen Florida Opportunity Scholar, addresses the crowd on the Plaza of the Americas for the “Stand Up and Holler: Gator Nation Giving Day.”


UF raising millions in a day not only broke records, but it allowed for scholarships and lower funded programs to receive a new form of funding.

UF’s first Gator Nation Giving Day, a 24-hour effort which brought together alumni, faculty, staff and students to raise money for the university, on Feb. 26 collected $12.6 million in donations.

More than $25,000 of this was donated to the Machen Florida Opportunity Alumni Scholarship and Program, which supports about 1,200 first-generation college students per semester.

The scholarship helps students like Candy Bryant, who was the first in her family to apply to college.

The 23-year-old UF family, youth and community sciences senior felt a financial burden lift off her shoulders when she was admitted to UF and was granted the Machen scholarship, which offers a full ride to first-generation undergraduate students who come from families with an annual income of less than $40,000.

“Without this scholarship, school would have been more stressful than it already is,” Bryant said. “This helps me to break the cycle of no one else in my family going to college.”

In comparison, the UF College of Medicine brought in a larger sum of money than most, receiving $227,000 to fund the Dean’s Preeminence Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to medical students.

However, despite the difference in donation size, UF’s first day of giving directly benefited the Machen Florida Opportunity Alumni Program in that it identified potential individuals to contact about making annual gifts to support these scholarships in the future, said Matthew Hodge, the UF Alumni Association’s executive director.

Donors could give to the Machen Florida Opportunity Alumni Scholarship itself, which raised $5,300 on Giving Day, and the Machen Florida Opportunity Program as a whole, which received $21,300, according to the Giving Day website.

Numbers are still being calculated to determine how much of the rest of the $12 million raised for Giving Day was distributed to other scholarships, Hodge said.

Physical infrastructure is one of UF’s underfunded areas which benefited from Giving Day, said Joe Mandernach, the chief development officer for UF Advancement. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for example, plans to use donations from Giving Day to renovate classroom spaces.

The college benefitted from Giving Day, but is often not immediately thought of by most to donate to, he said. It raised $6,420 for future classroom renovations and $2,700 in scholarship money for freshmen.

Mandernach said the UF School of Music is another example of a program which doesn’t always receive much attention, but it benefitted from Giving Day, receiving $2,760.

“Sometimes these priorities fall a little bit below the radar, even though they directly benefit students,” Mandernach said.

Mikayla Carrol at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mikaylacaro11.

Mikayla Carroll is a first-year journalism major from West Palm Beach, Florida. She first began at The Alligator in the Fall of 2018 as a copy editor and is now a university news staff writer.