MARIETTA, OHIO— The Washington State Community College Foundation is primarily known for managing and dispersing thousands of dollars in scholarships annually, however, thanks to its lesser-known, but equally valuable emergency fund, it has helped many students manage unforeseen circumstances and keep them on track to earn a degree.
Lori Johnson was a full-time student enrolled in the Respiratory Therapy program who was also juggling a part-time job. And while the single mom was working hard to give her and her daughter a great future, she couldn’t seem to get ahead.
The reality was, she found herself in a dire financial situation. “I had to choose to pay my electric or my insurance, and I can’t go without either.” Fiercely independent, asking for help wasn’t her first instinct, but she realized it was an option she needed to consider.
In speaking with a fellow respiratory therapy student, she was made aware of assistance available through the WSCC Foundation. And while she was happy to know relief was available, she was still hesitant to admit she needed help. So for weeks, the burden weighed heavy in her backpack as she carried her electric and insurance bills back and forth with her from home to class. As due dates loomed, her circumstance became desperate and she realized she needed to swallow her pride. Yet, even up to the moment she opened the door to the Foundation office, she was hopeful that she could resolve the situation on her own. Ultimately, for less than $100 from the Student Emergency Fund, the Foundation was able to ease the strain and allow her to refocus her attention back to her studies.
The Foundation’s connection with Lori didn’t end there. Several months later, as she was completing her final semester and preparing to graduate, she encountered another obstacle. She left class one day and discovered her car had a flat tire. Thanks to the air compressor in the auto/diesel lab, she returned the tire to its proper pressure, however, was warned the problem would persist because nothing could be done to repair the fact that her tires were so worn that the wires inside had started to show. Campus security recommended that she immediately replace both rear tires. She confessed she couldn’t afford that option until she received her financial aid disbursement and in the meantime, resigned herself to re-inflating her tire daily, if necessary.
Later that week, the inevitable happened and when she returned to her car after class, she again found her tire was flat. This time, as campus security helped her, he suggested that she call and ask the Foundation if there was any assistance they could provide. Lori, not wanting to ask for help again, thanked him for the suggestion, but didn’t make the call. Suspecting she wouldn’t take his advice; campus security contacted the Foundation office and shared Lori’s plight. The Foundation responded immediately by contacting Lori and informing her that two tires had been purchased for her. The following Saturday, after re-inflating her tire one final time, she drove to Mahone Tire Services and had the tires installed.
“Lori is the perfect example of why we have the emergency fund,” said WSCC President Dr. Vicky Wood. “So often, unexpected expenses and life events happen to our students and the last thing we want is for a financial pinch to jeopardize their academic future. We want to do everything possible to remove the barriers that keep students from earning a degree or certificate.”
The WSCC Foundation established the emergency fund to help students manage unforeseen circumstances. “This fund provides an important bridge between a crisis and a degree,” described Wood, “including gas cards to help with commuting costs, the first payment on a tuition payment plan, textbooks costs, or childcare expense relief.”