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Derek Gumb

A lesson in caring in Binghamton

In September 2011, the Binghamton University community came together to assist the victims of a devastating flood. The Events Center became a Red Cross shelter and students spent several weeks helping to clean up the region.

But Derek Gumb saw the damage that local schools such as Owego Elementary sustained and realized that assistance needed to be a long-term project.

“When the floods happened, it hit home for me,” he said. “It was a call to action. My mom is a teacher and I’ve seen her struggle to use her own money to pay for school supplies. Binghamton is definitely an area in need. There is a need for school supplies — even desks, chairs and carts.”

Gumb, a 21-year-old philosophy, politics and law (PPL) major, had spent two summers and a winter break serving as an intern for Class Wish, a nonprofit organization based in Manhattan. Class Wish provides an online donation platform ( that connects teachers needing school supplies with community members who can help. Teachers post their wanted supplies online, while donors can search for and give money toward those items.

“I connected the dots,” Gumb said. “I interned at Class Wish and this was part of Class Wish — making an easy donation system to help teachers. I found out about the Harpur Fellows program and all of the pieces fell together. It came about naturally.”

Gumb prepared for his interview with the Harpur Fellows committee by reaching out to former fellows, learning about their projects and seeking advice for his own.

“They were all so helpful,” said Gumb, who added that their main advice was to let his passion for the project show during the interview process.

After getting teachers and administrators from Owego Elementary and Johnson City Elementary on board and able to post supply needs online, Gumb turned to community groups. He stayed in the Binghamton area for a month after classes ended, speaking to business owners, parent-teacher organizations, local fairs and Rotary clubs. He raised $3,000 that will go toward a variety of supplies for the schools. Gumb continued to work on fundraising over the summer from his Bayside home.

“The nature of the (fellowship) is independent and entrepreneurial,” said Gumb, who will serve as Student Association executive vice president during his senior year. “It’s for people who are passionate about a project and have the drive to get it done by themselves. That’s who I am.”

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Last Updated: 3/1/17