Two UR students have put their own spin on the fight against COVID-19. They’re selling T-shirts.
Sophomore Aaron Huynh and junior Ariel Schwartz are using their campus jobs with University Tees, a company that creates custom apparel for college clubs and organizations, to fundraise for charities helping COVID-19. The former through a lighthearted joke about online learning, the latter with a feel-good reminder of our favorite places in Rochester.
Huynh started working for UTees in the fall of 2019 as a Campus Manager, where he connects UTee’s artists with customers, coming up with apparel designs to fit an organization’s needs. Huynh had several philanthropy-related orders planned for the spring, such as Phi Sigma Sigma’s Trivia for Tots.
“With everything shutting down, all those orders closed — because many of the orders I was doing were for philanthropy, I thought it may have been a good idea to try to do something myself,” Huynh said. “My boss came up to me, [and] gave me the idea of being able to donate through the program UTees has.”
Like many organizations that are creating donation programs or modifying existing ones, UTees is helping fight the pandemic through funding. A Campus Manager is able to donate any portion of their commission, and UTees will match a percentage of the money donated.
With the opportunity available, and Zoom University memes taking over the internet, Huynh came up with a design that made light of the situation many college kids found themselves in. Now, we all attend the same school, and have the tee shirts to prove it.
At the end of the fundraiser, Huynh donated his entire commission, $212, to the CDC’s crowdfunding efforts to combat COVID-19. UTees matched a small percentage of the total earnings, bringing the donation to just under $400.
In total, Huynh said the company made a profit of $2,900 before taxes.
“A lot of the profits right now are being used to keep many of the staff employed remotely,” Hunyh said. “We had to let go a lot of people, unfortunately, but they rely on us to maintain their jobs, which is also an added benefit of doing these orders despite everything going on.”
Another Campus Manager at UR, Ariel Schwartz, hopped on UTees’ opportunity with a more Rochester-specific focus. She noticed other schools like University of Delaware and Syracuse were fundraising through apparel of local bars students went to.
“We’re a decently small school […] the vibe is different than Syracuse,” Schwartz said. “I don’t think that bars are a super huge part of our campus culture, of people who go out.”
Scwartz wanted her design to be an accurate reflection of what students found important in Rochester. She asked around, and, to cover all her bases, even posted a poll in Poll Many Fair and Famous Streams, a UR polling group who gets its name from our alma mater.
Schwartz wasn’t able to include every iconic landmark, due to copyright issues. But the final image includes many UR student favorites, such as Jays Diner, Park Ave, and, of course, Wegmans.
Schwartz also donated her full commission, and had a small percentage matched by UTees. She raised about $430 for United Way of Greater Rochester, an organization that has created a community crisis fund. Nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 are able to apply for funds, with a priority on disproportionately impacted communities, vulnerable populations, and those who don’t receive federal or state funding.
Like all students, Huynh and Schwartz are feeling the effects of COVID-19 themselves.
Huynh, from Massachusetts, admitted he’s been struggling to keep up with his mental health, and to complete his work without the resources and environment UR provides. Schwartz had been studying abroad when the semester moved online — one of her professors in Sweden has COVID-19, and has to frequently cancel class. Schwartz’s home state, Georgia, started opening up small businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, and beauty shops this past Friday.
“My family has decided we won’t be participating in that, but obviously there’s some demand for it,” Schwartz said.
University Tees as a company has donated over $100,000 to fight COVID-19 so far.
“I’m just glad that people were happy to buy the items and contribute to a good cause,” Huynh said. “It’s a difficult thing that everyone’s going through, but it’s kind of beautiful to see that humanity is still persistent.”