As the Montgomery College community rallies to maintain teaching and learning in a social distancing environment, hundreds of MC students face immediate challenges in continuing their studies, accessing technology, and keeping food on the table. Many have lost income from jobs as businesses shut their doors. Others have lost access to the internet or computers. The circumstances and scope of this resource shortfall, just like the coronavirus pandemic itself, are unprecedented.
The Montgomery College Foundation is meeting this need with determination and innovation, responding to hundreds of student requests in the first week the College announced the transition to remote learning. One MC student touched by the support from the Foundation is Yomira Zevallos, an early childhood education major from Silver Spring. Zevallos received a $500 scholarship from the Montgomery College Foundation this week.
“In the midst of everything going on, I truly appreciate this from the bottom of my heart,” Zevallos wrote in a heartfelt note to the Foundation. “I am so thankful to have a community, and a school, that cares about me and is willing to help by giving [students] these opportunities, resources, and so much more. I cannot say thank you enough… I hope and pray everything will be getting better, little by little.”
Mandated social distancing, while disruptive to the traditional operations of the College, also affords new ways to use resources. Like many colleges and universities around the world, Montgomery College was forced to do the unthinkable in higher education – cancel its commencement ceremonies. MC was the first community college to announce that all of its commencement budget would be redirected for emergency student support.
Using the commencement funds and other resources, the College and the Montgomery College Foundation have been able to dedicate more than $550,000 to student assistance during the pandemic. The money supports a scholarship and grants account within the College’s operating budget to assist students in need with tuition, fees, books, supplies and/or technology.
I am so thankful to have a community, and a school, that cares about me and is willing to help by giving [students] these opportunities, resources, and so much more
The Montgomery College Foundation is also allocating restricted and unrestricted funds to provide assistance to students in need with food, technology, tuition, fees, books, supplies, and/or other needs during the pandemic.
Joyce Matthews, the College’s vice president of Development and Alumni Relations and executive director of the Montgomery College Foundation, understands the importance of scholarships, but feels it’s equally important that MC students know their community believes in them, and supports them.
“These are very challenging times and it is easy to get distracted by all that is happening around us,” Matthews said. “The College and the Foundation remain dedicated to helping all students pursue and obtain their educational goals. During the most difficult times, remaining hopeful about the possibilities the future holds will help us get through this together.”
Additionally, to help students who are losing income from the closure of a number of businesses and restaurants, the Foundation is providing gift cards made possible largely by a grant from the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation for food assistance to students.
College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard sent a collegewide communication Wednesday highlighting the myriad of support systems in place for students and employees. Some of the items include:
- Food distribution: 131 food packages to MC students on Monday across all campuses. MC staff and some of their family members bagged items on Sunday up until 4 a.m.
- Arrangements for a drop of over 100 more packages to food-insecure students are underway.
- 300 laptops have been deployed to MC faculty and staff over the last week. Another 40 are scheduled for distribution.
- More than 275 requests for emergency assistance have been submitted to the Montgomery College Foundation, which will be distributing grocery gift cards via mail to approved students.
- The College has purchased $5,000 worth of grocery gift cards.
- Other requests for assistance with rent, utilities, and tuition are being processed.
“Students are showing extraordinary fortitude, helping each other, sharing resources, and actively engaging on line,” Pollard wrote. “Employees are demonstrating ingenuity and commitment that goes beyond traditional duties.”
How Can Students Get MC Assistance?
The College and the Montgomery College Foundation are using a streamlined request process to help students through either or both organizations depending on each student’s circumstance.
Each case is taken on its own merits. In addition, the student must have financial need as determined by the financial aid office (FAFSA). If the student is not eligible to file a FAFSA, a judgment call is made collaboratively by the financial aid office and the Montgomery College Foundation. If a request is approved, a determination is then made as to whether the specific support is best routed through the College Scholarship/Grants account in the operating budget or through the Montgomery College Foundation funds.
For those students approved for technology assistance such as laptops or smart devices to access remote learning, the College and the Foundation will provide vouchers through the Follett bookstores. Students provide their M number which is given to Follett and the voucher is credited to the student so that they can order the technology online with that credit and have the technology shipped directly to the student.
If the needed technology is not available through Follett or available quick enough through Follett for use in the course, the approved request is routed instead through the Foundation based on availability of funds. The Foundation then goes with a secondary option where it will purchase the technology from a local store to get the student the technology more quickly.
Approved food assistance requests will be provided through grocery store gift cards through the Montgomery College Foundation. Students will be given instructions on how to acquire the gift cards by the Foundation staff.
For more information, contact FoundationFinance@montgomerycollege.edu.
As the situation continues to evolve with coronavirus, the College has taken numerous steps to protect faculty, staff, and students and to slow the spread of the disease. A comprehensive collection of resources, guidance, and communications can be found at the College’s coronavirus webpage.