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Partnership Helps Provide COVID-19 Grants To Columbia College Students

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Sonora, CA — COVID-19 hardship relief for local college students is now available and being further augmented through a new community fund where more donations are being taken.

Sonora Area Foundation (SAF), through a strong response to its Community Recovery Fund (CRF), which matches up to $300 in donations from individuals and $600 from couples, is now extending aid from it to help Columbia College students during this challenging time.

Through an arrangement with Columbia College Foundation (CCF), SAF is planning to help bring more relief to college students affected by the emergency as the shelter in place mandate and subsequent shift to online learning has created a hardship for many of them.

SAF Executive Director Darrell Slocum explains that some students do not own an adequate internet capable device or they have had to upgrade their internet plan for use from their home. Others have lost jobs and are struggling to complete their classes.

To initially address this need, the CCF board of directors last week created the Student Financial Hardship Grant Program and received hundreds of applications. Slocum shares that after quickly exhausting the $25,000 immediately allocated for immediate payouts, the college foundation came SAF to request support.

CCF spokesperson Amy Nilson recounts that a limited number of $250 hardship grants were made available beginning last week to help students who completed a short, online application. “We plan to go to faculty, staff and community partners to help us raise additional funds,” she confides.

Providing Students With Immediate Help, Encouragement

“Our goal is to help students cover increased costs for internet access, data plans and other needs prompted by the COVID-19 emergency. Our intent is to give our students some immediate help and encouragement as they complete the spring semester and make plans to continue online learning through the summer term. While more public resources are in the pipeline, we wanted to offer this limited assistance now to help students stay on track while everything else is so uncertain.”

Emails and texts were sent out last week to more than 2,250 active students, inviting them to apply by April 15 for a first round of funding. They were asked to indicate their areas of need and provide a short description of their situation. More than 400 students responded, providing a good idea of the level of needs students are facing.

Nilson remarks, “It’s sobering to read about their circumstances and motivating to see their determination.” Because initial funding was limited, CCF identified 216 students for immediate funding – those who are taking at least six units, plan to attend in summer, are in good academic standing and indicated a need for technology or basic needs.

The first checks are going out this week to 116 of those students. Nilson adds, “We are hoping the Sonora Area Foundation will match that with a pledge of $25,000 so we can assist the rest of students waiting for help as quickly as possible.”

Chiming in, Slocum says, “We agreed and are offering the same $300/$600 match for donations made to Sonora Area Foundation for those who specify they would like those monies to go into Columbia College Foundation Student Hardship Grants.” Since SAF does not charge any administrative fees, 100 percent of donations to the student hardship grants will directly benefit the program. For more details and to donate, click here.

As reported here, already SAF, through a similar CRF partnership with Mother Lode Food Project, has raised over $18,000 in donations and a grants totaling $36,000 for the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) Food Bank. Slocum additionally counts other COVID-19 relief related grant monies that have gone out to Interfaith Social Services, Give Someone A Chance, Nancy’s Hope, Resiliency Village Project/Jamestown Family Resource Center, Sierra Senior Providers, Salvation Army and others.

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