Pryor Legacy project persists despite COVID-19 challenges

Rooting for Refugees image courtesy of Kitt Wilhelm.

During their senior year, the Pryor fellows build upon leadership experience they have gained throughout the three years of the program and complete a group legacy project. The 2020 Pryor Class Legacy project, a partnership with Kansas City’s New Roots for Refugees, has faced unexpected challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite having to move the Legacy project online and raise funds virtually, the 2020 Pryor class has risen to the challenge and demonstrated their critical thinking abilities. 

Mikaela Papageorgiou, senior nonprofit leadership, communication studies and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry (ACT-In) major and legacy project champion, notes that despite the challenge of modifying the initial plans for the Legacy project completion, the senior Pryor class has adapted very well to the unprecedented circumstances. 

“It has been inspiring to see how everyone has banded together over the common goal of completing the Legacy project,” said Papageorgiou. “Our class has been really willing to adapt to online fundraising – which is really difficult.” 

The Pryor Legacy project is typically equal parts volunteering and fundraising. However, the 2020 Pryor class has had to postpone the build day and volunteering time at the farm site for a later date in the fall. Online fundraising is now the bulk of the project. 

McKenzie Gross, senior nonprofit leadership and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry (ACT-In) major and project fundraising head, explains that online fundraising during COVID-19 is especially challenging as people are focused on the impact of the virus and are looking to donate to those related relief organizations. 

“We totally applaud those relief organizations and the work that they are doing for our communities, because it is definitely needed,” Gross said. “At the same time, I think it is important to consider the impact that COVID-19 has had on food and supply chains in our communities and to really think about the relationship between New Roots for Refugees’ locally grown produce and the challenges that we are seeing in grocery stores at this time.”

The 2020 Pryor class created “Fight the 19” – an online 30-day personal wellness challenge focused on benefiting mental and physical health as well as demonstrating compassion to the community.

A flyer was sent out to the William Jewell College student body in early April, and the Pryor fellows called the Jewell community to action. 

“Our hope is that you will join our personal challenge of wellness and resiliency while bringing awareness to our 2020 Legacy Project,” said the 2020 Pryor class. 

Papageorgiou describes the intention behind the initiative. 

“Fight the 19” was our push to show the community that we are still trying to finish out the Legacy project and get people united through that,” Papageorgiou said.

As a way to keep the Pryor fellows engaged, the “Fight the 19” initiative spurred the fellows to practice mental and physical renewal as well as compassion in the month of April and additionally, it provided a platform to raise funds. 

The Pryor fellows have been utilizing social media platforms and guerilla marketing tactics to raise funds, Papageorgiou explains. 

“Everyone has taken their own spin on it,” said Papageorgiou.

Through their continued efforts, the 2020 Pryor class has raised a significant amount for New Roots for Refugees. 

“At this time, we are working on wrapping up our fundraising campaign. We have raised over $16,000 already and we are working on the final push to our goal of $20,000,” said Gross.

Gross notes that while every Pryor Legacy project is always a learning experience for each Pryor class, the 2020 Pryor class undertook a significant challenge.  

“I know this class will walk away from this project with grit and determination,” Gross said.  “Making a large-scale project like this successful is no easy task, and this class has managed to do it in the wildest of circumstances. I am so proud of the dedication and determination that the Pryor class of 2020 has shown.”

Papageorgiou additionally reflects on the impact of this project for herself and the Pryor fellows.

“I have truly learned that when you are working with a team of passionate leaders there is no challenge too big,” said Papageorgiou. “I’ve been exposed to so many strengths of my classmates and learned how even more amazing they are than I already knew them to be. We have learned to adapt and grow together in ways we never imagined.” 

To support the 2020 Pryor Legacy project, you can check out the GoFundMe here and follow along on social media: Instagram: @pryorlegacynewroots, Twitter: @pryornewroots and Facebook: Pryor Legacy and New Roots for Refugees.


Hannah Koehler

Hannah Koehler is the page editor for Arts & Culture on The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in English and psychological science.

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