In 2015, two University of Michigan graduates, after realizing there was no network for Black alumni to connect after graduation, founded ReliveTheBar with the goal of bringing their friends together for homecoming. RTB is a non-profit organization catering to Black students and their success at predominantly white institutions.
The organization sponsored campus student events, organizations and student entrepreneurs, then in 2017, they expanded to include the Black Alumni Book Fund.
Sennel Threlkeld II, ReliveTheBar co-founder and Kelley School of Business alumnus, said his focus was to figure out a way to give back to students of color.
The cost of books can be expensive, depending on the specific class and how many classes a student may be taking. It is easy to spend more than $50 on a single book, which creates a financial burden and can ultimately put students behind on assignments.
“I recall, when I was in undergrad, how much of a financial hassle purchasing books could be every semester,” Threlkeld said.
Once it started, the book fund received positive feedback and interest from more alumni who wanted to help the students directly. While receiving his masters of administration at IU, Threlkeld continued the Book Fund in Michigan, yet he wanted to find a way to expand.
“What we were doing in Michigan can be easily replicated at schools across the country,” Threlkeld said. “Students in Michigan are no different than the students in Indiana.”
The Book Fund has now expanded to five universities across the Midwest including Michigan State, Ohio State, University of Minnesota, University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University. Within those five institutions, the Book Fund calls upon alumni to either sponsor a textbook for a student on campus or donate funds to the organization, which will be used to directly purchase the textbooks.
This is the first year the Book Fund has expanded across these five universities, and it plans on growing its fund to even more institutions. So far, the Book Fund has given over 700 books to students on campus.
Students who are in need of a textbook for class can sign up and will need to provide proof of enrollment for the Fall 2022 semester at one of the universities mentioned.
Alumni who are looking to support a student can sign up to become a sponsor. By doing so, individuals can make a tax-deductible donation to the RTB Foundation to help more students throughout the Black Alumni Book Fund.