More than 600 students were able to begin or continue their college education at Genesee Community College over the last five years as a result of the Genesee Community College Foundation’s Emergency Assistance Program, according to a recent report. The Foundation provides financial grants for students who may have to leave college as a result of sudden personal hardships that occur through no fault of their own. Over the last five years, emergency grants have been provided to students who were victims of house fires, death or desertion of a spouse, or some other personal emergency or tragedy.
Although the Foundation raises funds for emergency grants as part of its annual fund raising efforts, a mainstay of emergency assistance support comes from earnings from the Foundation’s “Challenge Fund” – a $525,000 endowment fund created between 2000 and 2004 by private donors and the U.S. Department of Education. The fund was established after the College received a highly-competitive Department of Education challenge grant, offering two dollars for every private dollar raised. The Foundation raised the private dollars, created the endowment, and dubbed it “The Challenge Fund.”
The College is fortunate to recently receive a second endowment challenge; this one is an $80,000 dollar-for-dollar challenge for each of the next five years. As the Foundation raises $80,000 in private gifts, the U.S. Department of Education will forward an additional $80,000 to expand the endowment, and the earnings will provide more assistance to students in need in the future. The potential is to increase our challenge endowment fund by $800,000 after another successful five years!
In each case, the emergency grant provided a modest sum that enabled the student to continue their education, according to Alice Weather, Director of the Foundation’s Annual Fund. “For example, one student recently lost her school supplies and textbooks in a fire that destroyed her family home,” Ms. Weather said. “We provided funds to replace these materials. We sometimes see single parents in their thirties or forties who are working, raising a family, and struggling to get an education, and their car breaks down. For most of us this isn’t a huge problem, but students depend on their cars to get to class, so we can help with emergency repairs. In another case, we provided funds for a week of child care after an adult student’s mother, who had been babysitting, was rushed to the hospital with a medical emergency. To many students the grant is literally the lifeline they need to overcome an emergency and stay on track with their education.”
“Students are often stretched to the limit,” Tamara Adams, Outreach Specialist in the Adult Educational Opportunity Center (AOEC) at Genesee said. “We want to retain students who are truly dedicated to their education and have genuine needs from emergencies. Every semester I see unexpected expenses turn into a financial crisis that can end up taking a student out of school. We cannot permit strong, capable students to disrupt their education over a few hundred dollars.”
Ms. Adams noted that students facing an emergency must have a nomination from a faculty or staff member, employer, or human services agency who can verify the emergency before a grant will be made. When the emergency assistance money runs out, students have to be turned away. The occasions of students needing emergency or unplanned emergency support are growing and becoming more costly.
Ms. Adams said that the College often receives thank-you notes from students who have received emergency support. A victim of a devastating fire wrote: “Thank you so much. You have helped me tremendously when I thought all hope was lost. I had to find another apartment and my text books were completely incinerated. I just want to say thank you to everyone!”
The Genesee Community College Foundation seeks financial support to meet the new endowment challenge grant to support students in need as well as to provide for a wide range of other scholarships, including academically-oriented scholarships and scholarships for students preparing for careers critical to the region’s growth. Pledges and gifts for the Foundation scholarship and grant programs are payable to The Genesee Community College Foundation, One College Road, Batavia, NY 14020. For more information on foundation programs call (585) 345-6809 or write to the address above or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Genesee Community College Foundation was founded in 1986 by civic and business leaders to provide philanthropic and volunteer support to the College. The College Foundation has provided several thousand scholarships since that time, assisted in the financing of two new buildings on the Batavia Campus, and was instrumental in the acquisition of student housing.