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Stronger Together | A UW Tradition

Pokes Make the Difference

Adrian Seiloff
Outside of Adrian Seiloff’s home is an idyllic scene of fresh cut grass and blue sky. In early June, Laramie’s landscape has shifted from the neutral tones of colder weather to a vivid spring. Typically, these are some of the best days in Laramie. With finals behind them, students would normally be turning their focus to their hard-earned summer breaks. However, there are some visual cues that nothing about this semester has been ordinary.

Lining the sidewalks are signs that read “Better Days Are Ahead, Pokes.” Adrian’s block is eerily vacant despite the warm weather. What would be a perfect afternoon for graduation parties is instead a noiseless suburb. In the street are two children riding bikes. Like Adrian, both are wearing masks.

Adrian was born with a primary immunodeficiency disorder. He is required to self-isolate, with severe restrictions. Until a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus becomes available, his days will be spent primarily inside of his home.

A UW psychology major, Adrian is one of the university’s best and brightest. He maintains a high GPA and is involved in Student Success Services.

When the pandemic hit, Adrian’s life came to a halt. Suddenly, his financial security was gone. There was little he could do since he was required to lock down in his home. Like many students, he needed help.

“I still cannot express the anxiety my household has lived in,” says Adrian. “I was not certain how we were going to pay for food, the bills, or our rent.”

Navigating the pandemic is not unlike surviving a natural disaster. The unpredictability of the global health crisis creates a profound uncertainty. The question of whether or not it is possible to continue their education weighed heavily on students. They began asking themselves, “Can I still do this?”

A Wyoming native, Adrian was drawn to UW because community is important to him. Now, as a Poke, he is learning about the tradition of support within his UW family first hand.

“One of the greatest lessons I have learned is to not be afraid to ask for help,” says Adrian. “Because of Pokes Make the Difference, higher education is still attainable.”

Pokes Make the Difference was a crowdfunding campaign, the success of which relied solely on the generosity of the UW family. In April, Acting President Neil Theobald called upon the community to help the university’s most vulnerable students. He and his wife Sheona gave the first gift.

Pokes did not hesitate to offer their support. Donors included alumni, friends of UW, and even fellow students. The UW Foundation Board of Directors initiated the fundraising with a $250,000 matching fund. In just 15 days, the entire match was secured. Once met, President Theobald announced he would match all additional gifts with discretionary dollars.

Despite the anticipation of great economic downturn, the UW family realized its most successful crowdfunding effort to date— $555,448 was raised.

For Adrian, the financial aid was not all he received. He’s also gained a support system. Despite his isolation, he’s building communities from home. He’s paying it forward by helping underprivileged communities in any way he can. For him, Cowboy spirit means being there for one another, a tradition passed on from Poke to Poke.

“It’s similar to ranching,” says Adrian. “Nobody can do it alone. That’s how we succeed, that’s how we’re going to get through this, together.”

The appreciation felt by students today will undoubtedly become the generosity of tomorrow. In the tradition of supporting one another is where you will find the UW family. This is where you will find the heart of Wyoming.

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