The road less taken is finding new lengths this summer. A group of USC graduate students is boarding bicycles to traverse the 3,800 miles across the continental United States to benefit hungry schoolchildren in China. They call their journey OneWay.
Jiangyang Zhang ’14, who earned his PhD in electrical engineering from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, founded the campaign.
“I’ve had two nonacademic dreams to accomplish before completing my PhD: to finish an Ironman competition and to bike across America,” he said.
The Ironman training is in the works, but his original bike trip plans have grown to new heights.
“I came to USC from China, where I visited the poorest region six times as an undergraduate. The United States has a strong commitment to charity, and I wanted to incorporate this into my personal goal to make the journey more meaningful,” said Zhang, who recruited a team of USC graduate students to make his dream a reality.
A new brand of fundraising
Team leaders include journalism master’s student Xueqiao Ma, film production MFA Yeming Chen, and Weiyi Chen and Yuchi Che, PhD students in electrical engineering. The group is taking on the two-month bike ride to raise money and awareness for Free Lunch for Children, one of the most respected charity organizations in China.
“The schoolchildren in Anhui Province often live miles from school and cannot go home at lunch,” he said. “They have only rice and fermented vegetables to eat or no food at all. None of them has fresh fruit or vegetables.”
To feed the children, the campaign is implementing a new kind of fundraising. Rather than requesting dollars (or yen), the team is asking supporters to engage on social media. OneWay has target numbers for shares, likes and photo and video uploads across multiple platforms; if the team reaches its goals, corporate sponsors will donate 30,000 free lunches.
This innovative approach to fundraising is the result of the collaboration of graduate students across the university. The eight current and former USC graduate student team members represent USC Viterbi, the USC Price School of Public Policy, the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the USC Roski School of Art and Design. In addition to dedication to the cause and a penchant for cycling, their talents include corporate and media relations, news and media coverage, photo and video production, social media marketing and graphic design.
Zhang credits his education, particularly his participation in the USC Viterbi Startup Garage where he and a colleague launched GymFlow, for teaching him the tools necessary to launch this campaign.
The OneWay cyclists depart on their journey on June 8. Follow them across the country on Facebook, Weibo, RenRen and WeChat.