– Ask any student and they will tell you they are stressed out on a daily basis just trying to succeed – throw in an emergency, and they may be forced to abandon their studies and dreams.
College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Student Emergency Fund aims to avoid that possibility by giving help when needed to get them through a major hurdle. The fund has existed since 2015, but this year will be the first time CNA will partner with Giving Tuesday – known as the global day of giving – on Tuesday, Nov. 28 to raise awareness and money for the cause. Giving Tuesday is also known as the opening day of the giving season and traditionally follows Black Friday. It is an opportunity for charities, companies and individuals to rally for their favourite causes (see: Giving Tuesday
Elizabeth Chaulk, CNA’s Vice-President of Academics and Student Services, has been involved with helping students in some form or another for nearly three decades, but notes there wasn’t anything formal in place. She says events, such as fundraisers and book fairs, were held to raise money to help someone in dire need or crisis. But, she says, they realized something more was needed.
Chaulk, working with Sharon Hartley, Student Aid Information Officer, says a decision was made two years ago that a $45,000 donation to the college from an educational foundation be used to establish a fund that would prevent students in crises from being overlooked. The Student Emergency Fund was born.
“Our goal is to have $100,000 in the fund – we have done well and we are not quite there, but we want to ensure that there is enough in there to handle emergency cases for years from now,” Chaulk said. “Going to college is difficult enough. A student could be acing their program, but when they are suddenly hit with a crisis, everything could go sideways. The fund aims to weather the crisis, so the students don’t give up on their education. It is part of our college’s support strategy to give every student the opportunity to succeed.”
Anna Peddle, CNA’s Alumni and Advancement Office Manager, says there are people out there who want to donate money to CNA and help students, but just don’t know how.
“The Student Emergency Fund makes perfect sense when it comes to raising money,” she said. “We focus on items, such as transportation, food and medical needs as the primary uses for the assistance. We want to be able to meet the need within a 24-hour period. We are able to provide vouchers, gift cards or money for medical needs. Students have to take some onus, but there are times the situations get beyond their control.
“Our aim is to have a viable fund and with 17 campuses, the needs that emerge are diverse, and we want to be ahead of the game and be ready for students when they need us the most,” she said.
Peddle explains the challenge has been to identify a level of consistency when it comes to the definition of an emergency. This is where she and Chaulk rely on the college’s 14 guidance counsellors to handle situations on the front line and determine who is able to avail of the fund.
Tara Thomas is one of those counsellors. She says as a custodian of the fund at CNA’s Prince Philip Drive campus, she sees first-hand how students struggle every day. A recent example is when she was told a student was in the bathroom crying. Thomas learned the student was a single mom, with no supports and a child with special needs. She was running out of money, and had reached her breaking point.
“We got her some coupons for groceries and a bus pass. She was beyond grateful and still asks me how she can pay it back. These are real people, and this is about community and humanity. It amazes me how these students still get their butts in the classroom and score high in their programs, yet they have all these major stressors. We want to help and show them there are options out there so we can keep them in the classrooms to better their lives. This fund addresses the everyday struggles for everyday people, and I give them high fives for keeping going.”
Thomas adds that giving can occur year-round, but “this day highlights the needs out there, and the fund itself, so we can help students when they are facing personal difficulties.”
To donate the Student Emergency Fund, visit the CNA website
. To see how the Student Emergency Fund helped CNA Personal home Care Attendant Christopher Barnes, watch here
College of the North Atlantic