Students thankful for immediate help from Supporting Our Students Fund

March 26, 2020 — Leticia Do Valle Amaral Monteiro ’23 anticipated spending spring break in Washington D.C studying Shakespeare’s Othello and learning how to promote social discourse around social issues through theatre as part of a course-embedded travel course.

However, when Monteiro heard the trip was cancelled and Grinnell College would shift to distance learning on March 30, she decided to go back home to Brazil. Social discourse had turned into social distancing. “In a time of such uncertainty, being close to my family felt necessary,” she says.

Monteiro was originally scheduled to fly home on March 18, but with flights to South America being cancelled with more frequency, she had to move up her timeline.

“The College was extremely helpful and provided me with assistance to do so,” Monteiro says. “The staff calmed me down and, most importantly, assured me that I would get home safely,”

Monteiro is one of numerous students benefiting from the College’s Supporting Our Students (SOS) Fund. Created March 11 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the donor-generated fund supports immediate and ongoing student needs related to the pandemic. Gifts have helped students travel home via rental cars and airplane tickets and will be used to supply mobile hotspots for students without internet access at home as the College moves to distance learning.

“I cannot put into words how important our alumni have been during this crisis,” Monteiro says. “I know many students who cannot afford equipment for distance learning or do not have internet access at home. The SOS Fund will help these students continue their education – especially those who need financial assistance. I thank our alumni and emphasize their value to the Grinnell community.”

Students at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center (JRC) sign-up for assistance in moving out of their residence halls.
Students at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center (JRC) sign-up for assistance in moving out of their residence halls.

The SOS Fund is being administered through the College’s financial aid office. As of Thursday, a total of $92,216 has been raised from about 265 donors. Gifts have been made from 62 different classes ranging from 1951 to 2019. Parents, faculty, staff, and friends of the College also have contributed to the fund

When the difficult decision was made March 19 to cancel Reunion 2020 and Alumni College, an additional 21 alumni opted to donate their registration payment to the SOS Fund in lieu of getting a refund.

“Among the first things I learned about Grinnellians is that they are committed to each other and the common good. Sometimes those commitments converge,” says Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid. “Alumni gifts to the SOS fund in support of emergency travel and technology needs for current students have been essential for students.

“These gifts also have been uplifting to those of us on campus who are now turning our attention to academic continuity in a distance learning format for the duration of the spring semester,” Bagnoli adds. “The assistance provided to get students home and connected back to campus through technology is deeply appreciated!”

Pakistan native Mohammad Ali Admair ’21 initially petitioned to stay on campus, but after further consideration he decided it was best to return home.

“The past couple of months have been a roller coaster of emotions, and I really wanted to be with my family during these hard times,” he says. “Secondly, I realized that if I were to go home I could be more productive in terms of my professional work since I had found some work here over the summers as well.”

As an international student who is heavily dependent on financial aid, Admair had no idea how to pay for a plane ticket. He said College staff was extremely helpful by immediately responding to his traveling query and purchasing his flight.

“I think the SOS fund is a great idea, and the fact that alums were able to give such an amount over such a short period just shows how important the Grinnell community is in the hearts of alumni,” he says. “It’s very heartwarming to see how these alumni realize the difficult circumstances that we college students are going through. I hope down the line I can be of service to future Grinnellians as well.”

Grinnell students carry totes through campus to pack their belongings before heading back home.
Grinnell students carry totes through campus to pack their belongings before heading back home.

The SOS fund also has been important for domestic students. Sylvia Alf Rippee ’22 had to use her room and board reimbursement to purchase a March 21 flight back to Oregon. As travel became more problematic, students were encouraged to try to leave earlier. Further complicating matters was Rippee’s younger sister has an autoimmune disease, and she had an infusion scheduled at a Portland hospital on Monday.

Thanks to the SOS Fund, the College was able to purchase Rippee a new plane ticket for March 14 and provided a shuttle to the airport.

“I am so grateful she ended up flying on Saturday because by Monday the hospital was on lockdown for guests, and she wouldn't have been able to come,” says Sylvia’s mom, Kristine. “Grinnell went above and beyond the call of duty for our family, and we are so very grateful. My husband and I are so glad to have her at home during this crisis and will try very hard to make sure she is financially able to go back in the fall. Thank you to all the alumni and staff that made this work for her and other students.”

While acknowledging the transition to distance learning will have challenges, students are seeing a few silver linings in the situation.

“While it is indeed a very tough time for us all, I do feel the virus has given us a chance to take some time and recollect ourselves and see where we want to go with our lives,” Admair says. “In short, this period is a good time for self-reflection. Academically, this semester is going to be extremely tough as we do not possess the same resources like a work space, however once classes resume I am positive that our professors will guide us efficiently and help us become more adaptable to future problems and improvise in hard situations.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Read more about the College’s Supporting Our Students Fund. To make a gift to the SOS Fund, go to the gift form and select SOS from the drop-down menu.

Additional COVID-19 related resources and support can be found on Grinnell's COVID-19 Planning and Resources page

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.