Many students face financial troubles, insecurity about being able to find and afford food, homelessness or other unexpected hardships while working to succeed in the classroom. All too often, students are not aware of programs and resources available to them during their time of need. Enter ColumbiaCares.
In the Fall of 2012, students in the Business and Entrepreneurship’s Events Management Practicum (EMP) discussed how they could help their peers who are in need access available funds, goods and food items.
“The idea was for students to raise money for students,” says Kari Sommers, associate dean of student life and Business and Entrepreneurship adjunct faculty member, who teaches the course every year. “It’s outside the standard fundraising that’s done around student need, [like] scholarships, tuition or housing. ColumbiaCares is just for emergency need.”
Every semester since EMP was launched, Sommers asks her new class if they would like to continue planning, organizing and fundraising for ColumbiaCares as a class project. Her students respond with a resounding “yes.”
ColumbiaCares supports students in need in two ways: with food-based packages and/or a financial award of up to $250. Students can access either resource by submitting a written statement to the Dean of Students describing their emergency. Faculty members can also help students access resources by submitting an EASE report with a description of the student’s need. All of these available services keep the student’s privacy in mind.
“I think we all have this idea that college is this bubble of magic. Life happens when you’re in college,” says Sommers. “It’s not like life stops. Families, friends, circumstances, tragedies. Things happen.”
Sommers’ EMP class develops proposals and prepares budgets to meet their fundraising goals, and challenges themselves to surpass the amount collected by their predecessors. Food and toiletries are collected in coolers located around campus to fill the pantry for student use. Financial aid is raised through GoFundMe and through fundraising events coordinated by the class, such as The Sideshow, a circus-themed soiree which took place on Friday, December 9. This year, they hope to raise $2500 in financial assistance for ten Columbia students.
In the spring, ColumbiaCares will expand its efforts to help students by launching its Career Closet, which will help students find professional attire when job hunting. Sommers believes that the most successful students at Columbia possess two characteristics: a hunger for learning and a humility toward one another. “They want to learn, want to live, want to experience and want to to give. Columbia has that in abundance,” says Sommers. “It’s what makes this project special.”
ColumbiaCares accepts monetary donations through their GoFundMe account.