Hilton Head teen raising money to fund boarding school dream

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJuly 7, 2012 

Caitlyn Campbell is on a mission, and she has taken to social media to fulfill it.

The 14-year-old Hilton Head Island resident is trying to raise more than $7,000 in a few weeks. The money will help her meet the out-of-pocket expenses she'll have when she heads to a boarding school in August.

Campbell plans to attend Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, a college preparatory day and boarding school in northeastern Georgia for students in grades six through 12.

She received financial aid and her family can cover what remains of the $40,000 tuition, but Campbell is on the hook for her books, uniform, school supplies and weekend trips.

" 'I committed to tuition,' I told Caitlyn," mom Nikki Campbell Sandmaier said. "And she said, 'We've got to come with some way to make money.' "

So she has mailed flyers asking for donations and offered to baby-sit, do office work and clean homes.

Campbell also has turned to the Internet. She's put up a "crowd sourcing" campaign on Indiegogo. The website allows users to make pitches for their causes and give small tokens of thanks to their donors. Campbell is promising handwritten notes and personalized receipts.

Others are using the website to raise money for their education, too. The site has a host of projects, from bands raising money for their first album, to Olympic-bound weightlifter Sarah Robles seeking funding to travel to London. Quite a few people seek money for education, whether for graduate or undergraduate work, or to attend a performing-arts school.

So far, Campbell has raised about $4,300 of the $7,500 she thinks she'll need. The website shows less than that because the family has received donations off-line, too.

If Campbell doesn't reach her goal, she'll still be headed to Rabun Gap; the family's budget will just have to tighten.

"We've committed. We're paying tuition. She's buying supplies and reading her summer reading list," Sandmaier said.

Campbell's convinced Rabun Gap is the school for her. She's been attending Hilton Head Island public schools since kindergarten but says she wants the smaller classes and more tight-knit environment she saw when she visited the school of 350 students.

"I think it will be better," she said. "It's not nearly as big, and I noticed that everyone knows each other, no matter what grade they're in. Everyone gets along. It's not like regular high school where there are major cliques."

And Sandmaier said the smaller environment will be an immense help to her daughter, who was born hearing-impaired and has struggled to fit in.

Because of her hearing impairment, Campbell sometimes has difficulty detecting tones in someone's voice, so it's hard for her to tell when someone is joking, her mom said. And because Campbell relies a lot on lip-reading, if friends or classmates turn their heads, Campbell misses the conversation.

Campbell also said she's been teased by her peers who point out her hearing aids or ask her about her hearing impairment, and she doesn't always like answering.

Smaller classrooms at Rabun Gap mean less student chatter for Campbell to hear through, and the tight-knit environment will help her socially, Sandmaier said.

Though she's a bit worried about living so far from home, Campbell says she's ready.

"It will be hard at first, but I think it will be OK," she said. "I just need to prove to myself that I can go out and do something on my own."

Her mom said not having her at home will make a big difference for the family. It'll be a lot quieter around the house, and little brother Avery will likely miss her the most, she said.

"It's a sacrifice to not have her here, but what she can gain from this is well worth it," Sandmaier said.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content:

Caitlyn Campbell's crowdsourcing fundraiser

Rabun Gap-Nacooche School

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