For the last two summers Luke Romick ’16, environmental science and communication double major, has worked for The Thirst Project, a philanthropic organization based in Los Angeles seeking clean drinking water for the Third World.
First a communications intern and then promoted to operations manager, Romick’s responsibilities included event planning, schedule making, and aiding The Thirst Project’s annual fundraising gala.
This means he learned some unexpected skills, like how to live-stream an event on YouTube.
“I first suggested that I would produce the live-stream as a joke to my boss. But he said, ‘All right! You got it,’ ” recalled Romick. “So I learned very quickly not to ask for things that I didn’t actually know how to do.”
The Thirst Project began as an idea by a group of college students back in 2007. Romick first heard about it when he was in high school, because the president and CEO of the company, Seth Maxwell, spoke at Romick’s high school in Lebanon, Ohio.
“Romick was able to take the position with some careful planning and with the help of Denison’s McMahon Internship Stipend, which helps students who are completing unpaid internships.”
“I fell in love with it and knew I wanted to do it,” said Romick, who later brought The Thirst Project to Denison for an event. “I kept in touch with Seth after that. I kept bugging him: ‘Give me an internship. I want to come out to L.A. and work with you guys.’ ”
Eventually Maxwell yielded to Romick’s persistence, telling him that he could have an internship if he could raise the money to fly out and live there for the summer.
Romick was able to take the position with some careful planning and with the help of Denison’s McMahon Internship Stipend, which helps students who are completing unpaid internships. He and a Wabash College student rented an apartment in Hollywood, and he started working for The Thirst Project.
Since then, Denison’s partnership with the up-and-coming organization has grown. During The Thirst Gala on June 24, 2014, for example, Romick oversaw the event while Quenton Richards ’16, Drew Johnson ’14, and Nicole Casey ’14 helped to run the event’s live-stream and Instagram.
And, in a bit of serendipity, the event’s host turned out to be Jennifer Garner ’94.
“She is as talented, gracious, and beautiful as everyone makes her out to be,” Romick said.
The evening was a great success. They auctioned off the opportunity to build wells around the world for anywhere between $20,000 and $40,000, raising $300,000 and reaching 83 million people on Twitter (compared to 22 million in 2013). Halfway through the evening, the event was even trending on Twitter at number three.
“I was shocked when I heard we reached that many people,” said the Denison football player and member of the track team. “We weren’t even expecting to reach 40 million! That’s 300 percent better than last year.”
The increase is impressive for a 7-year-old company with a staff of five people (including Romick) with an average age around 25.
“To be cheesy, I think we are at the tipping point of moving from being a charity to a philanthropy,” said Romick.
While he isn’t sure what his future looks like in specific terms, Romick does hope to continue his work with The Thirst Project post graduation.
He also is learning to embrace Los Angeles, even though it’s a whole different experience than his more rurally located hometown.
“The number of people in such a small space is insane, but it’s the social capital of the world, one of them at least. Everything happens there: culture, fashion, movies. There are so many people. So much wealth. So many opportunities.”