The Student Support Foundation: Sparking Change, Inspiring Impact

Giving-Philosophy | Blog | 7 min.
Written By: Carrie Morgridge | Posted On: 12/09/2019

What is the Student Support Foundation? 

John and Carrie Morgridge founded the Student Support Foundation (SSF) in 2003 to inspire the next generation of great American philanthropists. Today, that idea has empowered thousands of students from dozens of schools across the country to give back to their own communities.

The model for an SSF Chapter is simple: colleges and high schools admitted to the program are granted $4,000 by the Morgridge Family Foundation to invest directly into their school’s community. The projects and needs those funds are directed toward are decided upon by each Chapter’s students. A sponsor — a professor or teacher from each school — must be associated with each club. Additionally, SSF Chapters are required to fundraise at least $250 each year, and submit an annual report to the Morgridge Family Foundation describing the impact of their chapter.

Interested in starting an SSF Chapter at your school? Email emma.spofford@thinkmff.org to learn more.


What does it mean to be part of an SSF chapter?

by Jared Gendron, 2019-2020 President of SSF at Plymouth State University

Every action leaves a signature. I choose my actions based on deliberation, honesty, and how much of a positive impact it can make. 

I recently graduated from Plymouth State University (PSU), located in Plymouth, New Hampshire. I was introduced to public service and community involvement when I joined Student Support Foundation (SSF), a national philanthropy organization. Fourteen high schools and universities across the U.S. host their own SSF clubs.

SSF began seventeen years ago in 2003. On one of her daily runs, Carrie Morgridge of Morgridge Family Foundation (MFF) had an idea about engaging the next generation in philanthropy. Still sweaty in her workout gear, Carrie walked into an Orlando public school and told the receptionist she wanted to teach kids how to give away money. The receptionist looked at Carrie, decided that even though it was an odd request, it might come from a good place, and introduced Carrie to the school’s librarian. The librarian arranged for Carrie to meet with a group of AP students to brainstorm the possibilities of a youth philanthropy club. The students coined the name “Student Support Foundation,” and dreamed up a student-led organization with a mission of serving others in their community.

SSF remains a student-led philanthropy organization. As of 2020, fourteen organizations are active across the U.S., half of which operate within high schools and the other half at universities. At its core, SSF is meant to introduce students to public service, empower them to problem solve in their communities, and inspire a lifelong passion for giving back. The organization offers students real-world experience with managing financial grants, from school-wide initiatives to individual student emergencies. On-campus, SSF clubs encourage students who are facing financial troubles to anonymously apply for items such as textbooks, food, medical emergencies, travel expenses, or whatever is holding them back. SSF alleviates financial barriers to academic success so that students may succeed in all walks of life.

Each SSF chapter has the freedom to develop their own operating guidelines. It is a policy meant to empower students to have full ownership of their club and address the issues of their community. 

At Plymouth State University’s SSF club, for example, we identified food insecurity as a priority issue. We provide an on-campus food pantry with a manager who supervises volunteers, schedules regular pantry hours, oversees the facility and tracks donations. As a club, we allocate time to coordinate food drives and public service initiatives. In addition, SSF at PSU sponsors an annual initiative known as “Swipe It Forward,” which encourages students to donate a meal swipe from their dining plan into a large pool of swipes that SSF manages. The number of donated swipes continues to increase throughout the years, peaking in 2019 at over 1,800 swipes. Students then may receive a fixed number of swipes upon request. Overall, the initiative helps combat food insecurity, which is commonly marginalized in university environments.

Our SSF club was able to further our impact  when Casey Krafton, our wonderful club advisor, informed us that PSU administration gave SSF an empty room in the HUB for the Food Resource Center. It was a monumental moment because the location was central to students. By October, SSF had worked to order shelving and set aside Food Pantry resources so that this new space, the “SSF Community Cupboard,” could open to student traffic. 

Since opening the Cupboard, it has been popular with students. Bridget, who stocks it on a weekly basis, always finds that it needs refilling by the time the new week rolls around. We have a suggestion box placed in the room, which we frequently receive feedback from—we have even found small donations inside! We continue to innovate with the room and supply different item selections. It has been amazing to know that our “Food Resource Center” eventually came to fruition. 

Not only does SSF provide tangible improvements to the community, but it enhances a student’s academic understanding of issues being studied. As I recently spoke with my mentor and professor for “American Food Issues,” Dr. Abby Goode had this to say about the importance of students working in public service:

“Students who engaged with the Student Support Foundation exceeded the boundaries of the semester, the assignment, the project, and became invested in food security in a deep and values-based way. To see learners so elegantly and thoughtfully use the classroom as a springboard for engaged, community-focused work is to experience a truly authentic, magical process of learning, engagement, and leadership. Simply put, it is powerful.”

Since SSF’s advent, club’s nationwide have collectively given away over $600,000 to their local communities. This amount of funding speaks to SSF’s commitment to supply all students with the tools to foster well-being. Club members learn to develop potent empathy and financial responsibility as they review grant approvals. They learn the challenges of prioritizing need, and the potential impact even modest gifts can make to an individual or community.

At an organizational level, SSF is committed to heightening the leadership of its members so that we can become the best provider for students. The annual Summit event, a conference where SSF clubs across several U.S. universities come together, reflects MFF’s dedication to fostering future leaders. The previous SSF Summit event, which took place last November, was held in Orlando Florida. Myself, Bridget McCarthy, and our advisor Casey Krafton, represented Plymouth State over the course of the three-day trip. Leaders of the Morgridge Family Foundation, including founder Carrie Morgridge, leaders Emma Spofford, John Farnam, Meredith Dreman, and Emma Spofford, attended the Summit and interacted with student leaders in SSF.

Everybody at the event had the opportunity to visit Orlando’s Second Harvest Food Bank facility. Second Harvest is an organization that supplies package meals to outside communities. Over the span of a few hours, we all worked with Second Harvest’s amazing staff to prepare nearly seven thousand meals.

Over the course of the two days, mindSpark Learning, an organization that specializes in community building strategies and fostering deliberate leadership abilities, facilitated activities for Student Support Foundation members. mindSpark spent a good amount of time advising us on how to execute missions in incremental, realizable steps. A key takeaway of the event was mindSpark’s proposed “Golden Circle,” or the ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘why’ of an organization’s mission.

As a culmination event, five non-profit leaders joined for a “speed-dating” activity where SSF members could ask questions about leading in the public sector. My conversations with the leaders allowed me to connect with their wisdom and experience.

Student Support Foundation provides an invaluable opportunity for students to cultivate leadership experience while also, and perhaps most importantly, understanding and taking care of each other.