DOVER – Delaware State University has achieved the initial $1 million goal for itsCOVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fundin just over two months and has now expanded the goal by $500,000.“I cannot be more pleased with the response from our Alumni, community leaders, and corporate friends,” DSU President Tony Allen said. “We are living in a moment so many of us have never experienced – a health epidemic not seen in a century and a rallying cry for justice that rings loudly in every community in the country. Meeting this goal is just one indication that inertia is not an option.”Originally the university anticipated a two-week absence, but, like universities across the nation, it had to pivot, with all courses being converted to digital formats.
[caption id="attachment_200431" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dr. Vita Pikrum led the DSU student relief fundraising effort. PHOTO COURTESY OF DSU[/caption]
“We began hearing immediately about students facing difficult conditions,” said Dr. Vita Pickrum, vice president for institutional advancement, who has managed the fundraising effort. “Students had no access to computers, could not afford to buy food, had left all their clothes behind on campus, or needed to work instead of complete their classes to help their unemployed parents pay the rent. We knew that we had to do something.”One student’s request detailed moving back home after spring break, sharing her mother’s computer to complete her schoolwork while working part-time to help out the family. When her mother was laid off, the computer had to go back to the business. “I am asking for this money since I am now technically the only breadwinner in my household,” she wrote. “My paychecks have to be used for groceries until my mom can get her unemployment.”The university’s food pantry was already providing food support for 75 students and their families, and the institution had distributed nearly 200 laptops, tablets, and portable Wi-Fi hotspots to students when the decision was made to tackle the situation more aggressively.“We decided to tell our students’ story to the community that has always supported them, and to be extremely transparent about the amount necessary to meet the need,” Allen said.Pickrum said that 78% of all individual donors have been university alumni, but they’ve been joined by faculty, staff, and many local companies, including Laffey McHugh Foundation, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Vanguard, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays Bank, Bank of America, Links of Wilmington, WSFS, M&T Bank, TD Bank, Verizon Foundation, Capitol One, FMC Corp., Discover Financial Services, Corteva; Fulton Bank; BFPCC Inc., and Delmarva Power.The university has already disbursed awards on a rolling basis to nearly 1,000 students and DSU students have produced a thank you video thatcan be viewed here.“Words cannot describe how much I truly appreciate my award,” rising DSU junior Shatia Brunson said in a press release. “I always like to be able to help others, and without my job, I was not able to do that financially. However, I am so grateful to you for my award because now I can take some of the financial burdens off of my aunt. Thanks to you, she does not have to worry about me as much, and I will no longer feel like a burden to her.”Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Devona Williams said, “Now isn’t the time to slow down, but to redouble our efforts. As long as a single student is still struggling out there, we’re committed to helping them.”Donations may be made throughthe COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund landing pageon the university website.By Peter Osborneposborne@delawarebusinesstimes.com