Vanderbilt to participate in SEC competition creating videos to thank essential workers

VSG helps coordinate ‘SEC Gratitude Challenge’ with the conference’s student governments. Challenge will take place from today until Friday.

6FT Closer is working with SEC schools to make thank you videos for essential workers. (6FT Closer/Screenshot by Immanual John Milton)

Immanual John Milton

6FT Closer is working with SEC schools to make thank you videos for essential workers. (6FT Closer/Screenshot by Immanual John Milton)

Immanual John Milton, Editor in Chief

Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) announced the beginning of the SEC Gratitude Challenge on Monday at 11 a.m. CDT in partnership with 11 other Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools and the organization 6FT Closer. 

The program will pit students of SEC institutions against each other in a competition for the upcoming week from 11 a.m. CDT on Monday until 11 a.m. CDT on Friday. Community members from each SEC school will compete to make the most videos and nominations for essential frontline workers, proportional to their student body size, according to Vanderbilt Student Body President Veer Shah.

After videos are submitted, 6FT Closer will then distribute the videos to essential workers around the world. 6FT Closer will return any response from the workers to the creator of the initial video.

The organization has sent out 2,000 videos so far, according to Head of Strategic Partnership Ben Sharf.

Students will be able to track how schools are doing in the competition as well as view the final results on the 6 FTCloser website. 6FT Closer is also brainstorming ideas on how to recognize the winning school per Sharf.

“As a [frontline] worker, you’re kind of identified by association. No one knows your name, what you do [or] where you’re from. So our question was: is there a way to tap into that and to look at a worker and say, ‘Hey Ben, I know you’re a doctor in California. I just want to say thank you to you for all the work you’re doing,’” Sharf said.

Sharf also said his team tested the idea by sending “thank you” videos to people one step away from their personal network.

“We received responses ranging from ‘I just got off a 12-hour shift and broke down in tears’ to ‘I haven’t had a day off in two weeks. Videos like this remind me of why I do what I do,’” Sharf said. “After these first couple videos, we kind of decided that this was something that more people can use in the world.” 

6FT Closer Head of University Outreach Ben Grosse said he reached out to schools that would do something with the challenge and make it big. 

“The SEC was the first conference and group of schools we started working with, especially on a student government level,” Grosse said.

Shah said he met with a 6FT Closer representative over Zoom to talk the idea over and then spoke with his childhood friend Asim Ahmed, student body president of the University of Georgia. Ahmed and Shah talked about making it an SEC-wide challenge.

“It started off as my idea, but it was a joint effort,” Ahmed said. “This wouldn’t have happened without Veer’s input and his willingness to do this.”

Once Ahmed and Shah got other schools in the SEC involved in the challenge, they began coordinating within their student body. VSG Director of Student Outreach Lamar Morgan has been involved in Shah’s plan for Vanderbilt and even helped other schools with their campaigns.

“We’ve kind of stood at the forefront of the planning for the whole thing. For example, we have a folder that has some write-ups, some ideas in it [and] a tentative timeline when we want to release certain things on social media,” Morgan said. “That’s a folder that’s been continuously shared with other schools to kind of give them an outline of how they can go about running the campaigns for themselves.”

Shah said even though the challenge isn’t monetary, the stories they’ve heard from 6FT Closer about people who receive the videos demonstrate that the challenge is meaningful.

“[The SEC Gratitude Challenge is] helping Vandy students show their gratitude towards frontline workers, but also for frontline workers to know that they are valued and appreciated,” Shah said.