The University of Arkansas at Little Rock community has come together to help students facing critical financial needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In times like these, we witness the true heart of the American spirit,” said Christian O’Neal, vice chancellor for university advancement. “The COVID-19 pandemic gives us all a sense of togetherness and reminds us that while we continue to practice social distancing, we are not alone.”
The newly established COVID-19 Student Support Fund will support students facing immediate needs, including reduced job hours and income, food and housing insecurity, technology needs, access to healthcare, and other unforeseen expenses.
In honor of #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5, a national day of global action for giving and unity in response to COVID-19, UA Little Rock is celebrating the contributions of donors with special content on social media and UA Little Rock Public Radio.
“We are using this day as an opportunity to thank all the generous donors who have gone above and beyond to help our students by supporting the COVID-19 Student Support Fund,” said Samantha Wiley, assistant director of development. “Meeting the needs of our UA Little Rock students would not be possible without the help of the Trojan community and companies like Seal Solar whose donations have made such an impact during this time.”
Around 60 donors have raised nearly $27,000 to help UA Little Rock students in need.
“The fund started off with an anonymous donor who wanted to help students and pledged to match $5,000 in donations,” Wiley said. “It’s amazing how many people want to help our students right now. It touches our alumni community in particular. They want to give students the same opportunity they had to complete their college education.”
One of the fund’s donors, Julie Brown, a 1993 UA Little Rock graduate from De Queen, Arkansas, said she was moved to give $13,000 after realizing what a difference it can make for the students.
“Ever since I graduated from UA Little Rock, I’ve wanted to help other students succeed,” Brown said. “I know how important a college education can be to a person’s future, and my heart breaks for all the students who are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. I know a lot of students have suddenly lost their jobs and are facing basic need insecurities, such as the ability to purchase groceries or rent. When I saw UA Little Rock had started a fund for these students, I wanted to help right away to ensure they get the support they need.”
One student who can benefit from the fund is Mariam Bouzihay, a senior psychology major who is graduating this semester. Shortly after moving home to Jonesboro, Bouzihay’s family home was damaged in the tornado that struck the town on March 28.
“Some people in the neighborhood lost their houses completely, so we were lucky,” Bouzihay said. “Huge parts of our roof were blown away. The carport is gone. We have a food truck in the back of our yard that just landed there, and we don’t know who it belongs to. The response from first responders and all the people who came from out of town to help the people of Jonesboro was really nice to see.”
Fortunately, Bouzihay and her family were uninjured, but she now faces an unexpected financial difficulty, but is grateful for the support from UA Little Rock.
“It’s a very confusing time,” Bouzihay said. “So many people have lost their jobs, and we have all transitioned to classes online. A lot of students need support. I want our students to know that there are people here to help them. During this time, it’s about being there for people. We are a Trojan family, and look what our family, friends, and supporters have accomplished. When you have people who support and care for each other, it’s amazing what can be achieved.”
Students who would like to apply for a micro-grant may fill out a referral form, and UA Little Rock employees may refer a student at this link. Students will be contacted by a member of the CARE Team, who will provide them with a short application. A committee will review each submission and make an award recommendation to the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships.
If you would like to help UA Little Rock students by making a donation, please visit the COVID-19 Student Support Fund website or text UALR to 41444.