English MATTERS — SPRING 2011

Theresa Ripp

When I started as an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, I knew I wanted to be an English major. I just never anticipated that my English degree would allow me to travel across the western half of the United States and give me an opportunity to raise money for children in their most desperate hours. For the past five years, I have worked for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for their Pacific Northwest office in Seattle. We handle fundraising and special events for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Montana. St. Jude is the second largest health charity in America; it freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. It is also the only pediatric cancer research center at which families are not required to pay for treatment that is not covered by their insurance. No child is ever denied treatment because of a family’s inability to pay. Our fundraising efforts keep the hospital open and provide life-saving treatment to thousands of children across the world.

Every day I use skills from my English classes, whether it’s editing a sponsorship proposal for a gala, giving a presentation to a fundraising committee, or having a conversation with a donor about the latest news from the hospital. There are difficult and sad moments in this job, when my emotions get the best of me. In those moments, I often read poetry because it inspires me to continue to do this good work.

Most of all, my work is about people. I have met amazing patients whose determination to be healthy and lead extraordinary lives is inspiring. I work with donors who put their trust in me and St. Jude to use their dollars wisely. I go to work every day at our office in the University District, Seattle, with a small group of people who want to change the world and who want to see cancer and other catastrophic diseases erased in our lifetime. Don’t be deterred when someone asks, “What are you going to do with an English degree?” You can do almost anything. More importantly, you can do good work for an organization that makes a true impact in the lives of so many people across the world.

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