SAN ANTONIO – Due to loss of income and the uncertainty COVID-19 has had on families in Bexar County and across the world, college students have had to take a moment to reevaluate if they can afford to pursue their degrees.
However, institutions like Alamo Colleges say their mission is unchanged: to remain focused on student success and access, putting students first and empowering the community.
In May, Alejandra Gómez finished her Associates of Arts and Teaching degree at Alamo College’s Northeast Lakeview College. Gómez sits on the Board of Directors as the Alamo Colleges Student Trustee to help develop communication between students and the board.
“I represented the kids from all five colleges and I was a full-time student at the time,” Gómez said.
Gómez worked to educate students on resources available to them to make ends meet through the Alamo Colleges Foundation.
“I wanted more students to know about what was going on because I didn’t want them to miss out on (college) if they really needed that help,” Gómez said.
At times, even Gómez needed help herself.
“I would have family that would help me out with different financial stuff and even just paying for classes,” Gómez said.
However, she never thought she’d be close to losing her home in May due to the financial impact COVID-19 had on her.
“My family’s source of income at the time was cut off because they lost their jobs,” Gómez said. “Our bills were piling up.”
In May, Gómez received an email from her apartment complex with an eviction notice attached.
“I received a notice on May 12th that they were going to move forward with an eviction process if I didn’t pay soon,” Gómez said. According to Gómez, she owed about a month and a half of rent. With no income or financial support from her family due to COVID-19, she took her own advice and sought help from Alamo Colleges.
“It’s the COVID-19 Student Impact Fund, and it is for students that have had different financial situations within the COVID-19 (shutdown),” Gómez said. “(They can apply) if they have issues with housing security, if they have issues with food shortages, you know, having groceries at home.”
She filled out the one-page application, attached documents as proof and within 24 hours, Gómez had the $930 she had petitioned for. She hopes her story will motivate more students to apply for help through the fund. The fund can help cover costs for housing, utilities, car payments, medical bills, etc.
“I think that things like that are incredibly important for the mission that they have here at Alamo Colleges. I think that there are people that really need help. They may be a student. They may be working full time. They may be providing for a family, you know,” Gómez said. “Students can continue to go to class and not have to worry so much about where their next meal is going to come from for their family or how they’re going to keep the roof over their head.”
She’s especially grateful for community donors like Martha Martínez-Flores, a local artist who has raised thousands of dollars for student funds through her art print titled SA is Amor. All funds raised from the print, which is priced at $75 each and exclusively found at Felíz Modern, benefit the Alamo Colleges Student Impact Fund and Bonham Academy’s Lend-A-Paw Fund.
“I want to tell them thank you so much for their contributions, because it means a lot to people like me and to other students that, you know, don’t have those things for themselves,” Gómez said. “It really does change lives for these students so that they can finish their education and go out strong, even with everything that’s going on in the world.”
Gómez’s chapter at Alamo Colleges has wrapped up and she has made it one of her life goals to be able to one day give back to students who may face similar trials during their post-secondary education.
According to Alamo Colleges, they’ve raised a total of $317,000 for the COVID-19 Student Impact Fund and have about $269,000 available for their students in need. Records provided by the school system show that more than 130 applications have been approved for funding and all colleges have additional applications pending.
If you’re a student enrolled at Alamo Colleges and want to apply to the COVID-19 Student Impact Fund, click here.
To donate to the fund, click here.