Meeting an immediate need while creating a lasting impact.
This March, our team went from planning our annual spring gala to working from home. Spokane and Spokane Falls Community Colleges were both moving to digital campuses, and our students were learning to navigate a completely online education. Our neighbors felt miles away, as did our plans for the future. So our team focused on our mission and the work we could do to meet our students’ immediate needs.
At the start of the pandemic, we noticed a drastic increase in student requests for emergency assistance. At one point, we were receiving seven times the daily applications. Our students were struggling to purchase a laptop or reliable internet to complete their studies. They were dealing with layoffs and new childcare requirements. It became clear to our team and our Foundation Board of Directors that our students were facing such circumstances that they might be forced to leave their education before they completed their programs. This wouldn’t just set our students back from the bright futures they are trying to build, but it would also negatively affect our local community. As the only comprehensive community college system in the largest labor market for eastern Washington and northern Idaho, our students go on to support our local community as tomorrow’s chefs, automotive technicians, nurses, and teachers.
To support our students through the pandemic, the Board created Project Finish Line. The goal of Project Finish Line is to get each student through this hard time and over the “finish line” of their degree or certificate. It provides emergency aid to cover the cost of students’ laptops, books, or utilities. The initial $30,000, gifted by our generous donors and allocated by our Foundation Board, went quickly to SCC and SFCC students. As more and more applications came in, we remained laser-focused on supporting our students through the pandemic.
When we put the call out to our community at this year’s first entirely digital SipSwirl&Savor, our generous donors gifted over $76,000 in emergency support for our students! $35,000 of that money raised was thanks to a generous matching gift from BECU that doubled the impact of every community donation.
Nicole is one student who received emergency support from Project Finish Line. Nicole is a single parent who prioritizes her children’s needs above her own. The pandemic caused a tighter financial situation for her family and left Nicole and her children finishing their schoolwork at home. With only one laptop for the household and her kids needing to complete their assignments, Nicole didn’t have a computer to finish her classes.
Nicole has big plans for her education. Completing her degree at CCS is her first step on her way to law school. Knowing that she needed to remain dedicated to her degree, she purchased the laptop.
“I made the purchase with no clue how I would make up the funds,” Nicole said. “I bake fresh and specialty breads for friends and family, and I was hoping I could supplement my income that way.”
Through Project Finish Line funds, the Foundation was able to award Nicole the money needed to cover that laptop purchase so that she could continue to support her family and finish her coursework.
“It has been a true blessing,” Nicole said. “I start at ASU in September and the new computer is letting me get my work done without any stress. This will help me maintain my grades and let me get into a really good law school. Which is the entire goal in the first place!”
That is the goal. Our students are working hard to support themselves and their families. And when they succeed, they go on to strengthen our local community. Our work is to support them through this time so that they can accomplish every one of their educational and career goals. With Project Finish Line, we can meet our students’ immediate needs, all while creating a lasting impact on our community.