"My philanthropic efforts aim to bridge the social gap in education, and uAspire provides the platform and support needed to make a real impact."
“Through my involvement with uAspire, I have gained a new perspective on the difficulties students face in pursuing higher education,” explains Jonathan Leavitt, a former ski patroller at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, and philanthropist. “Equity is a driving force behind my involvement, and providing students with equitable opportunities to experience college beyond just my own educational journey is important to me.”
“The underlying theme of my philanthropy has always been bridging the social gap. It's about supporting individuals who aspire to pursue higher education and taking action to correct gaps in our society, and uAspire stuck out to me because its focus aligns perfectly with my goals,” says Jonathan. “It’s crucial for students not only to access college but also to graduate without overwhelming financial burdens. Many vital professions, like teaching, healthcare, and scientific research, may not offer high salaries immediately after graduation, and excessive debt can hinder individuals from pursuing these paths. I didn't experience this struggle firsthand, but working with uAspire allowed me to understand its significance and prioritize supporting students’ futures.”
“Every student deserves the chance to explore their passions and pursue their dreams without the stress of multiple jobs or struggling to afford basic necessities. That should never be their reality. Unlike my own college experience, which was guaranteed and without financial hurdles, I've come to realize that this is not the case for most students.”
Reflecting on his own educational journey, Jonathan credits a wilderness medicine and search-and-rescue semester with the National Outdoor Leadership School for introducing him to the power of experiential education, which offered him both technical skills and irreplaceable life lessons. The experience led Jonathan to become an EMT and a professional ski patroller. Recognizing philanthropy's opportunity to do even more to help others, Jonathan partnered with Lara Fox from the Marin Community Foundation for strategic expertise and to leverage his personal experiences in shaping his philanthropic endeavors.
“During the early stages of our collaboration, the tragic incident involving George Floyd occurred which made me realize the importance of including civil rights as a critical component, and at the forefront, of my philanthropy. Equity, therefore, became a significant focus in my philanthropic endeavors, prompting me to ask Lara to compile a list of educational equity organizations that addressed both top-down and bottom-up approaches. uAspire stood out to me due to its dedication to helping students overcome the challenges of accessing higher education, and its policy fellowship was aligned with my values and has become a driving force for my continued support,” says Jonathan.
“What struck me about the policy fellowship was its integration of experiential education. It offers students an opportunity to relate their classroom learning to real-life situations. They receive compensation, continue to pursue the field or utilize their newfound skills in other ways. Fellows advocate for themselves and meet with professionals who navigate the legislative system. These students not only face the challenges of higher education but also learn to understand, speak up, and confidently push their ideas forward, benefiting not just themselves but also representing the interests of their fellow students. It requires a strong voice, thoughtful consideration, and integrity.”
As his relationship with uAspire developed, Jonathan had the opportunity to meet the student fellows. Inspired by these young adults, Jonathan has directed his generosity to the student policy fellowship each year since its founding in 2020.
“Meeting the students involved in the program motivated me to take the next steps with uAspire,” says Jonathan. “After speaking with Ty, a fellowship alum, I was amazed by his energetic and focused nature – his confidence left a lasting impression on me. While pursuing a political career might not be his ultimate goal, I am confident that he will excel in whatever path he chooses because of the valuable experience gained through the program, and that speaks to the true essence of the fellowship – empowering students with the confidence and skills needed to succeed.”
“My philanthropic efforts aim to bridge the social gap in education, and uAspire provides the platform and support needed to make a real impact,” says Jonathan. “By supporting students in their pursuit of higher education, we can create a more equitable and just society while allowing individuals to find their purpose and make a difference not only in their world but in ours too.”