When the unexpected strikes: Students impacted by COVID-19 receive an outpouring of support

Students impacted by COVID-19 receive an outpouring of support as the Davenport community rallies around the Student Emergency Fund

The Student Emergency Fund is one example of how the Davenport community rallied to support students at a time of great need. The fund was created in 2013 to address the basic needs of students during an emergency — to help them with things like food, gas, utilities or rent. When staff, faculty, alumni and friends heard about the immediate need of Davenport’s students after the pandemic hit, they only had to be asked once and they jumped into action.

Megan Sjolander, assistant director of annual giving, reports that we raised over $18,000 in the first few weeks and 70% of these funds came from Davenport employees who wanted to support the increased student demand for assistance.

To put this all into perspective, last year, the Student Emergency Fund provided aid to 18 students totaling $3,500. When the pandemic hit, “over eight times that number of requests flooded in,” Sjolander said. “When we announced that the Student Emergency Fund was available to students facing challenging times due to the pandemic, requests poured in daily. Since March 19, nearly 150 students experiencing immediate and unexpected financial hardships received over $33,000 in support.”

Access to the fund meant that students and their families had the assistance they needed to stay in their homes, put food on their table, or continue their education.

We could not have done this on our own — it was a concerted effort. “Our entire community got on board and the heartfelt support and words of encouragement we received along with the donations were incredible,” added Sjolander.

We have many people to thank for their part in this process. Davenport faculty helped lift the burdens of our students quickly and compassionately. The Center for Campus Life played a crucial role in announcing an early move out date — determining who needed to continue to live on campus, communicating and overseeing a prorated refund for housing and dining, and officially moving over 730 students out of the residence halls.

Dr. Joe Bishop, executive director of campus life, was not only at the forefront of those initiatives but worked closely with the Office of Advancement to review and award students the emergency funds that were requested.

Beyond the institutional effort and collaboration, we learned of the deeper and lasting impact that the Student Emergency Fund has had and will have on our students — they can continue working toward their dream of achieving a higher education. The testimonials from students paint a bigger picture of the circumstances surrounding them. From the student that usually works two jobs to make sure she can make ends meet to the single mother who lost her full-time job or the students that could not go home because the situation had simply become too dangerous to take any risks — and the list goes on. What was thought of as immediate relief became a mid- or long-term solution for many students.

Bishop recalls, “Initially, there was a significant gap in terms of access to technology with the shift to online classes. The Student Emergency Fund ended up being a great resource for our students by giving them access to funds to purchase devices like a Google Chromebook to complete their classes.” Bridging the digital divide was critical to ensuring many of our students continued to have access to their education as we transitioned to online classes.

The Student Emergency Fund provided the financial resources for students at a time of greatest need. We thank you again for answering their call for help. Indeed, this pandemic helped bring the best out of our Davenport community!

If you’re interested in giving to the Student Emergency Fund, please go to davenport.edu/give.

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