March 31, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College student leaders are donating $8,000 to the college’s student emergency fund and food pantry to help the growing number of classmates who are struggling to pay bills during the coronavirus crisis.
More than 70 percent of GRCC students attend part time, scheduling classes around work and home responsibilities. With many area employers limiting hours or closing their doors in response to the crisis, more students face food and housing insecurity.
The Student Alliance, a group representing students at GRCC, donated $8,000 intended for activities and programs, giving $5,500 to the emergency fund and $2,500 to purchase items for the college’s food pantry.
President Emma Johnson said her organization’s mission is to advocate for students and help them be successful.
“The state our world is in is very scary, and every single one of us is being affected and fighting our own battles,” she said. “Student Alliance truly wants to help the GRCC student in these hard times! When we were offered the opportunity to support students through the emergency fund at GRCC, it was a no-brainer. The Student Alliance team has GRCC students' best interests in heart and will continue to do whatever we can to help each other out. We are all in this together!”
The Student Emergency Assistance Fund was created by GRCC President Emeritus Steven C. Ender in 2009, largely using donations from employees. It helps students who face emergencies such as losing their job, a place to live or having their utilities shut off. The fund has provided more than $100,000 in grants and loans since 2014.
The number of students needing assistance has increased since the start of the Winter 2020 semester, spiking dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis. GRCC has provided more than $12,000 in loans and grants this semester -- double what it needed to provide during the entire 2018-2019 academic year.
“Many college students were struggling prior to the coronavirus crisis, especially those balancing school with work and families,” said Lina Blair, director of GRCC’s Office of Student Life and Conduct.
“The need is going to keep growing until employers can open their doors again, and it will still take time to recover. For a lot of students, their last paycheck will be this week or next. It’s inspiring to see student leaders stepping up to help their classmates. They know the challenges the students are facing.”
More than 100 students have received food assistance since March 11, with donations from GRCC’s Secchia Institute for Culinary Education, Campus Dining and local businesses.
A second curbside food pickup for students is planned for noon on Wednesday, April 1, outside the GRCC Student Center on Lyon Street. The college also frequently updates a website – grcc.edu/gethelp – with campus and community resources for health, food and other challenges.
Community members can donate through the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s online donation page, grcc.edu/donate. Select "Student Food Pantry" or "Student Emergency Fund" from the drop-down menu under "Designation.
Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.