In response to helping its most vulnerable students during COVID-19, Delaware State University started its Student Emergency Relief Fund ten days ago. The Delaware community has already responded in a big way. Nearly $250,000 has already been raised. The goal is $1 million.
Bank of America Market President Chip Rossi and his wife Tracy made the first contribution. “When Tracy and I heard from Tony about the enormous challenges these students are facing in the middle of COVID-19, we thought it was important to do whatever we can to help,” Rossi said. “The reason is simple. Many of these students made their way to college against unimaginable odds, and COVID-19 threatens their hopes of a college education. Delaware State will not let that happen, and neither should any of us who care about educational access for ALL.”
Late last week, the Laffey-McHugh Foundation made a $100K gift to the fund. Executive Director Todd Veale noted, “The Laffey-McHugh Foundation is pleased to support Delaware State University’s commitment to its community of students and families working together through these unsettling times.”
University students left for the March 7-15 Spring Break believing that they would return to campus on March 16. However, on March 12, Delaware State University announced the sudden suspension of in-person classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unexpected turn of events left many students struggling with significant challenges.
“I never knew how big my village was until I went through a crisis,” said student Kennedy Graham. “I lost both of my grandparents to COVID-19, and the support I got from not only the students but the staff at Delaware State University was amazing. I did not know so many of my fellow Hornets and staff would help me! I thank God for my Hornet family because I do not think I would be able to get through this tough time without them!”
University President Tony Allen is gratified and encouraged, but not surprised, by the help received from others. “I could not be more proud of the hundreds of individuals, institutions, and community groups who have already given to the fund,” Allen said. “In just ten days, organizations like Laffey-McHugh Foundation and The Links of Wilmington; individuals like the Rossis and Louise Ballard Cummings; and our terrific Delaware State University Alumni Association have been a tremendous boost to our efforts.”
Allen noted that the need still far exceeds the funds raised thus far. Over 800 Delaware State University students have submitted applications, totaling $650,000. As of today, 216 requests have been approved for funding by a University oversight committee. “Now is not the time to plant in victory flags,” Allen said. “For those who can, we need your help to ensure that these young people can continue to realize their dreams.”
One student’s request details how she had to move back home after Spring Break, sharing her mother’s computer to complete her schoolwork while working part-time to help out the family. Then her mother was laid off, which meant that the computer had to go back to the business. She wrote, “I am asking for this money to purchase a laptop as well as some clothes since I am now technically the only breadwinner in my household. My paychecks have to be used for groceries until my mom can get her unemployment.”
Dr. Joan Coker, President of the Wilmington (DE) Chapter of The Links Inc., said The Links were honored to support the needs identified by these students. “We recognize the importance of fulfillment of their educational goals. Our donation of $10,000 marks the beginning of a partnership with the University, and students in our community,” Coker said. She urged other community organizations to do the same. “We challenge every organization of color to join in this investment in the future of these African American students that need our help right now! If not us….who? If not now….when?”
In addition to the Emergency Relief Fund, Delaware State University is pursuing other support initiatives. The University’s Food Pantry has provided meals for dozens of students. More than 140 laptops and tablets have been loaned to students without adequate tech devices at home. To ease the transition to a different kind of learning, students have been offered a special Pass/Fail option for Spring 2020 courses. A dedicated web page and weekly President Webex Forums keep students updated on changes.
Delaware State University Board of Trustees Chairwoman Dr. Devona Williams added, “Look at how so many have stepped up amid COVID-19: medical professionals and first responders from every corner; students completely reorienting themselves to a new learning orientation; family members trying to figure out how to memorialize a lost loved one; concerned citizens honoring all the protocols that are keeping our communities safe.
“It all matters because they all matter! At the University, we want to make sure we are doing our part.”
Donations may be made through the COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund on the University website.