University reaches $1M for Student Emergency Relief Fund
In just over two months since the announcement of its COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund, President Tony Allen announced today that Delaware State University’s initial $1 Million goal has been reached.
“I cannot be more pleased with the response from our Alumni, community leaders, and corporate friends,” Allen said. “We are living in a moment so many of us have never experienced – a health epidemic not seen in a century and a rallying cry for justice that rings loudly in every community in the country. Meeting this goal is just one indication that inertia is not an option.”
The fund was established on April 10, about a month after most residential students had to leave campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally the University anticipated a two-week absence, but, like universities across the nation, this later had to be extended through the remainder of the semester, with all courses being converted to digital formats.
“We began hearing immediately about students facing difficult conditions,” said Dr. Vita Pickrum, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, who coordinates the fundraising effort. “Students had no access to computers, could not afford to buy food, had left all their clothes behind on campus, or needed to work instead of complete their classes to help their unemployed parents pay the rent. We knew that we had to do something.”
One student’s request detailed moving back home after Spring Break and sharing her mother’s computer to complete her schoolwork while working part-time to help out the family. When her mother was laid off, the computer had to go back to the business. “I am asking for this money since I am now technically the only breadwinner in my household,” she wrote. “My paychecks have to be used for groceries until my mom can get her unemployment.”
The University’s Food Pantry was already providing food support for 75 students and their families, and the institution had distributed nearly 200 laptops, tablets, and portable Wi-Fi hotspots to students when the decision was made to tackle the situation more aggressively. “We decided to tell our students’ story to the community that has always supported them, and to be extremely transparent about the amount necessary to meet the need,” Allen said.
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.”
While the list of donors includes Trustees, alumni, faculty, and staff at Delaware State University, Pickrum emphasized that 78% of all individual donors have been University alumni. “We knew that our alumni would answer the call,” she said, ‘but even we have been staggered by their overwhelming response.” A wide array of corporate and charitable Institutional donors include:
- Laffey-McHugh Foundation
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund
- JP Morgan Chase
- Barclays Bank
- Bank of America
- Links of Wilmington
- M&T Bank
- TD Bank
- Verizon Foundation
- Capitol One
- FMC Corporation
- Discover Financial Services
- Corteva Agriscience
- Fulton Bank
- BFPCC Inc.
- Delmarva Power
Nearly 1,000 students have already received awards, with the University dispersing funds as rapidly as possible as donations arrive. Graduating Senior Lawrence Awosogba spoke for many other students about his feelings on receiving the award: “I and my family would like to take this time out to express our gratitude to Delaware State University for simply being there for us during this time. The University has not only shown that its students matter but it has also shown that their families matter as well.”
“Words cannot describe how much I truly appreciate my award,” says rising Junior Shatia Brunson. “I always like to be able to help others, and without my job, I was not able to do that financially. However, I am so grateful to you for my award because now I can take some of the financial burdens off of my Aunt. Thanks to you, she does not have to worry about me as much, and I will no longer feel like a burden to her.”
Though the initial goal has been fulfilled, the need for support continues.
“Now isn’t the time to slow down, but to redouble our efforts. As long as a single student is still struggling out there, we’re committed to helping them,” said Board of Trustees Chairwoman Dr. Devona Williams.
Donations may be made through the COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund landing page on the University website.