An anonymous donor’s gift of $10,000 has doubled the amount of funding available in the Virginia Western Rapids Response Student Emergency Fund. The donor is a retired businessman and an alumnus of Virginia Western College who wants to help students struggling to balance school and financial emergencies during the COVID-19 crisis.
The donor recalled meeting his wife 45 years ago in a Virginia Western geology class. “We were so poor, we couldn’t afford to buy a Texas Instrument hand-held calculator for each of us, so I used my slide ruler and gave her the calculator,” he said.
After graduating from a Virginia four-year university with an engineering degree, the donor went on to found a successful business. He supported that university as an alumnus, “but I realize it is Virginia Western that needs my help now, and they were the first to help me. They prepared me for what was to come.”
His gift benefits a longstanding Virginia Western Educational Foundation fund that was newly renamed in spring 2020 to recognize the college’s athletics nickname – the Rapids – and to reflect the urgency behind its commitment to assisting students. Applicants may receive up to $500 per academic year to address a financial hardship that threatens to interfere with them completing their coursework.
“Right now, we are seeing students who lack a computer at home, so they cannot complete online classes,” said Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation. “We’ve been able to buy them a laptop so they can finish the semester and hopefully graduate on time.”
In the past, the fund has been tapped quickly – within 48 hours of application – pay for unforeseen expenses such as medical or car repair bills. The Educational Foundation also can award Kroger grocery or gas cards, and arrange for emergency Uber rides to or from class.
“We know that most of our students work at least one job in addition to going to class. Their finances are tight, and with one missed bill things can quickly snowball,” Mansfield said. “The student can feel overwhelmed and lose focus on class. This fund helps take the pressure off.”
An applicant is also connected with a campus advisory council, whose members assess the student’s overall needs and help them connect with other community resources, such as the Bradley Free Clinic or the Council of Community Services.
“This isn’t just about providing that $500. We want our rapid response to also help connect the student to ongoing support and more long-term solutions,” Mansfield said.
To apply, students must be currently enrolled in at least 6 credits, have a minimum 2.0 GPA and meet other eligibility requirements. There is no deadline to apply; applications are accepted year-round.
Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director
Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation