EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of the students in this article have been changed at their request.
The COVID-19 crisis has some TCC students wondering where they can turn for the assistance needed to keep pursuing their dreams, and donors wondering how they can help. The TCCD Foundation has the right answer for both—the Student Emergency Assistance Fund.
TCCD Foundation’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund (SEAF) offers a way to connect deserving students with donors who want to help meet the increasing need during the crisis. The Foundation received 53 applications for SEAF assistance between January 13 and March 8. During the next 3.5 weeks (March 16-April 8), new applications jumped to 234 (a 441 percent increase).
“It’s important in times of community need that we all work together,” said Kelly Hanley, vice president, Corporate Philanthropy and Community Relations at Wells Fargo Bank. “This pandemic has created many hardships, and we wanted to do our part in helping these students stay on track for graduation and beyond. We hope that our support provides a measure of relief as we stand with the community during this challenging situation.”
The normal amount of a SEAF award per semester is $500. In addition to meeting immediate needs, the funds help students manage day-to-day challenges like the cost of books and supplies, child care, computer access and even one-time expenses like tire repair.
“I’d hate to see a non-scholastic problem get in the way of a student completing a degree or certification that could lead to gainful employment,” said retired lawyer Mattie Compton. “The pandemic has revealed how close to the edge people are living. Helping a student through a tight spot, keeping them in school, can make a world of difference to that student.”
Compton’s award through the TCC Foundation was a crucial financial bridge for Ladonna, a single mother with a seven-year-old daughter and an “essential worker” at a local hospital who wants to enroll in TCC’s nursing program. Her work hours were reduced but her child care, rent and utility bills continued. The situation became discouraging and overwhelming. “I thought about just dropping all my classes because I was getting behind in my bills, but then I thought that would be teaching my daughter about giving up. So, I am choosing to do something, and I am grateful that TCC is helping me to complete my college dream,” she said.
TCC and the Foundation have proven faithful to their mission, making it an easy choice for Freedom Construction to come along side and provide financial support.
In addition to helping students weather the immediate storm, local donors recognize that the long-term benefits of their generosity will be felt in myriad ways. Since each student touches multiple lives throughout the community, donor gifts literally keep on giving.
Bank of America’s Fort Worth Market President Mike Pavell said his firm invests in the SEAF “to eliminate barriers to success for TCC students. This investment helps students to stay on track and complete their educational goals, thus strengthening the future workforce and ultimately, the Tarrant County community.”
Yet, it can be hard for TCC students like Becky, a stay-at-home mom in her mid-30s, to grasp the bigger picture when her short-term needs are so immediate, and her life plans seem so distant. Becky’s award through the TCC Foundation was an important lifeline after her husband, a restaurant worker, was laid off. Their savings quickly dwindled, and they faced a mounting pile of bills, a defaulted student loan and multiple disconnect notices from their electricity provider. “Can you imagine having a small child without any electricity? And staying focused on my school work with no electricity. No way!” she said. Since then, she has brought her bills current, completed her semester and is preparing to transfer to a four-year university to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Donors continually reference TCC Foundation’s critical role providing support and relief to students whose academic continuity is threatened by unexpected financial emergencies or hardships.
Zak Anderson, president, BNSF Railway Foundation, said his firm supported SEAF because “the most effective way for us to help, both short- and long-term, was to get funds directly to students as quickly as possible. TCC has done an incredible job in providing a safety net for those most vulnerable during this incredibly stressful time.”
The variety of donors who have stepped up to support the fund has not been lost on TCCD Foundation Executive Director Joe McIntosh. “The cross-section of types of donors supporting the fund is gratifying. They represent community members, TCC alumni, private foundations, local businesses, faithful donors already engaged with TCCD Foundation, members of the board of trustees and employees and TCCD Foundation board members.
“This initiative resonates with donors. They recognize the broad support students need to complete their degree/certification plans—needs that go beyond funds for tuition and textbooks. Many students are just one emergency away from totally having to close down their college pursuits. Support from this fund helps keep them on track to complete,” McIntosh said.