How Champlain is Helping Vulnerable Students During the Pandemic

Thanks to the incredible generosity of alumni, faculty, staff, parents, and friends of Champlain, the College was able to raise more than $170,000 for students in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

As the coronavirus continues to affect the country’s most at-risk populations, it’s more important than ever to support emergency funds, like Champlain’s own Angel Fund which helped hundreds of students this spring.

The world changed almost overnight when the pandemic hit. At Champlain, our students had to find their way home, adjust to new ways of learning, and keep in touch with friends and loved ones virtually. But even before COVID-19, our most vulnerable students were navigating significant challenges and were strained both mentally and physically. For them, the pandemic was especially devastating.

Some students couldn’t afford a plane ticket home. Others couldn’t return home because home wasn’t a safe place to be. Students who rely on off-campus jobs to support themselves (and even parents, siblings, or children) were furloughed or laid off. Some had to take care of sick family members or watch younger siblings, leaving them with little or no time to earn money. Others didn’t have internet at home or a computer to keep up with remote learning. For many, campus had become a reliable place to live and learn, and all of a sudden, it was shutting down.

Stephanie Doan (standing) ’18 // Psychology, is the Student Resources Coordinator at Champlain. She connects students with the resources they need to succeed and thrive academically.

In a few short weeks after campus closed, the College received more than 100 new requests for financial support. In addition to providing funds for food and other basic living expenses, Champlain purchased airplane tickets, mailed out loaner laptops, computers, and tablets, helped students connect to the internet, and housed students on campus. The College turned to front-line staff like Student Resources Coordinator Stephanie Doan, ’18 // Psychology, to connect students with the critical resources they need to survive. Doan helped students apply for VSAC (Vermont Student Assistance Corporation) emergency grants as well as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.

“Some students simply don’t have a home to go to,” says Nadia Mitchell, Champlain’s Equity Initiatives Director. “They come to Champlain with the intention of remaining on campus for their four years of college. While most of our students were able to travel home to be with their loved ones, many of them could not.” During the lockdown, 150 students remained on campus for need-based reasons.

The Student Emergency Angel Fund supports those in the Champlain learning community with acute, unexpected needs. Specifically, the Fund provides assistance to students who need additional help to fully access and participate in their studies.

Before COVID-19, some students, especially those in our gaming, cybersecurity, filmmaking, and creative media majors, relied on computers with specialized software and greater processing capabilities in our on-campus labs. To allow students in our specialized majors to complete their coursework on time, Champlain mailed out several loaner laptops loaded with the latest technology.

During these unprecedented times, many of us in the community keep asking, “How can I help?” One simple and effective way to change lives during the pandemic is to make a donation to Champlain’s Student Emergency Angel Fund. The fund provides emergency assistance to students who need additional help to engage in their studies and succeed academically. While the fund was established to help struggling students during normal times, the COVID-19 crisis has made those needs especially urgent.

In mid April, at the height of the lockdown, Maureen Langan DiFalco, who had made a donation of more than $9,500 to Champlain College from a fundraiser for her daughter, Terry DiFalco—who was killed in 2017 at age 14 by a NJ state trooper who was texting while driving—redirected those funds entirely to the Student Emergency Angel Fund. While the donation was originally made to help students study abroad who would not have otherwise been able to do so, when DiFalco heard about the Student Emergency Fund, she immediately requested the donation be applied to it. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to redirect the funds to such an immediate need and fantastic cause,” writes DiFalco who is the sister of Marcelle Langan, Champlain’s Director of Web Services. “Terry would be thrilled to have this kind of impact on the lives of students who cannot go home. Supporting at-risk students is the most important investment we can make at this moment.” In June, an additional $2,500 was raised in Terry’s name for the fund through a Facebook fundraiser launched by Tara Bussey, Terry’s first grade teacher.

“The students need our help right now,” says Linda Tarr-Whelan, Champlain College Trustee, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, and former Ambassador to the UN Commission on the Status of Women. “We need to be there for them. We’re all a community together, and that’s what makes Champlain special.”

You can support the Student Emergency Angel Fund by making a donation at this link. Please be sure to select “Student Emergency Angel Fund” in the dropdown menu.

If you’re a student seeking assistance for financial or food insecurity, please email studentresources@champlain.edu.

For more information about other ways to give, please visit our Giving site.

More Ideas
Broadcast Media Production Seniors Showcase Capstone Projects
Dr. Narine Hall Secures Large Grant From Google to Offer Machine Learning for All
Social Impact Scholars Create Positive Social Change and Explore Issues of Justice