Between a broken down car, a burned down house and a sick grandmother, Lino Anunciacion felt like it would take a miracle for him to afford his Aggie Ring.
Anunciacion, English senior and president of Mic Check, a non-profit poetry organization in Bryan, seemed to have one bad incident after another while saving money for his Aggie Ring. After the initial fear of having to give up on his piece of Aggie gold, friends and his Mic Check family swooped in to make sure Anunciacion wouldn’t leave Aggieland with a bare right ring finger.
It began when Anunciacion reached 90 credit hours in the fall, the minimum requirement for students to order their Aggie Ring.
“I had been saving money. At that point I had about $800. To save the money, over the summer I was working full time,” Anunciacion said. “Also, I’m a spoken word poet so I was touring around the country with a friend of mine doing shows and stuff to make money. Once we got off the road, my car broke down. The brakes literally fell off of my car.”
Repairing his car cost Anunciacion most of the money he made while working, leaving him to strive toward getting his ring the next semester instead. After continuing his poetry tour, along with selling books he’d written, Anunciacion partially made the money back. But the hits kept coming.
“I’m leaving the place that I’m staying in Austin and I back into a pole that’s in my blind spot. It breaks the sideview mirror completely off,” Anunciacion said. “My grandma had gotten sick and we needed to cover some stuff for her, so I gave my mom some money, about $200. So essentially all of the tour money was gone again. But I still had another leg of the tour to do.”
Earlier this spring, Anunciacion received a phone call from his mother: His house had burned down.
“Afterward, my mom calls me and tells me everything’s fine, everybody’s safe. But, to cover the insurance it was about $600. So again, completely wiped out any savings I had, which is fine,” Anunciacion said. “Obviously I prioritize my family’s safety over everything. I’m glad that I was in a situation where I could help with that.”
Aryan Safi, member of Mic Check and civil engineering junior, said he was surprised Anunciacion rejoined a protest he had been participating in when he learned the news.
“I asked him if he wanted to go, and he said it was all fine,” Safi said. “Despite what he had just heard about … He knew where he was and he felt compelled to stay. In the short amount of time that I’ve known, him he’s demonstrated some qualities that some people don’t express in a lifetime.”
After the protest, Anunciacion, Safi and Austyn Degelman, Mic Check vice president, went to Denny’s. While eating, the three talked for hours. Anunciacion’s recent struggles, most notably his house, gave Degelman an idea to help her friend.
“I realized that we’re in this community together. The poetry community is about family and taking care of each other, so I just really wanted to do something for him,” Degelman said. “He does everything for everyone else. All of his savings went to his mother that night. He just emptied his bank account for her.”
Degelman started a private Facebook event, created a private GoFundMe and invited anyone she thought might donate money for Anunciacion, all in secret. Within a short amount of time, more than enough money was raised through donations. Although the original limit was $500, Degelman increased it at the request of donors.
“I posted in that group like 20 times a day,” Degelman said. “It got to over $1,200 in two days. I was just blown away.”
At Anunciacion’s last poetry show in Houston the audience members and his friends gathered around him at the end of his set when he was getting ready to head back to College Station.
“Everyone just kind of gathers around me and I’m like, ‘What’s going on?’” Anunciacion said. “Camera lights are on and Austyn walks up to me and is like, ‘Hey, so on Monday you told us everything that happened and we all grouped together to get $1,200 for you.’”
As a result of the generosity of his friends, Anunciacion was able to afford his Aggie Ring right before the spring deadline, but he decided to give the money to his mother for their home instead. But there was yet another surprise for him around the corner.
“I was going to give that money to my mom. While the insurance had covered the house, we still had to replace things,” Anunciacion said. “She said the church was helping us with the house and taking care of it, so she told me to take the money and order the ring ... Then I got to order my ring. The deadline was that Friday.”
Degelman said the event is still overwhelming to think about.
“You just never really understand how good people actually are. I had no idea. Some people donated everything from $1 to $100. I had people trying to hand me money the night of and I told them to give it to him themselves,” Degelman said. “Getting to witness that happen and watching your friends take care of each other is really wonderful.”
Anunciacion said he is thankful for the donation from his fellow Aggies that he has known from the many organizations he has been in and looks forward to getting his ring this weekend.
“A lot of my careers in college kind of just converged in this one moment where everyone that I had ever interacted with came and supported me in this moment,” Anunciacion said. “In a weird way it was like everything was kind of coming back full circle as far as all the time and dedication and commitment I’ve had to Texas A&M, the Bryan-College Station community at large and all the volunteer hours I put in.”