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Alia Degen

Global studies major, service-based travel participant

Alia Degen

A year ago on a high school trip to Costa Rica, first-year student Alia Degen helped rebuild pathways in the rainforest and pave roads in the capital city, San Jose. While on the trip, she remembers noticing another sign of service in the country: a child wearing canvas moccasins from California-based Toms Shoes. Seeing evidence of the brand's mission in action -- a company that for every shoe purchased donates another pair to a child in need -- was partly what prompted Degen to enter Toms' Ticket to Give contest earlier this year. "I knew their model was accurate," she says.

Chosen among thousands of entries, Degen was one of 50 selected to go on a giving trip and personally deliver shoes to impoverished children this fall. Winners traveled both to the company headquarters in Santa Monica this spring to learn more about Toms and then to Guatamala, Peru, Paraguay or Honduras, where Degen visited in early October.

To win the online competition, Degen rallied friends, family and acquaintances for votes. Her tactics were local (appealing to fellow residents in Groton, Mass.) and international (enlisting the help of cousins in Mexico and Israel and friends from service trips like the one to Costa Rica). She hit up her virtual networks on Facebook, Twitter and the like, and employed some bolder face-to-face strategies, as well -- most notably, her sister took a laptop to the streets of New York City and asked passers-by to vote for Alia.

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