Last July, UMBC senior Karina Martinez’s world crashed down around her when an auto accident left her with two broken arms and a totaled car.
In a matter of moments, reality set in. Surgery and recovery would take at least three weeks. And even after that, without a car, she couldn’t get to school or her part-time server job, much less the required field placement she needed to complete to graduate. Her manager gave her a less physically-taxing hostess position, but losing a month’s work and switching from tip wages to hourly left Martinez in a real bind.
“I had bills I had to pay, I had a balance with UMBC on a summer course I took that summer, and I was looking to see if I could somehow buy a car for my commutes,” says Martinez, a social work and psychology major set to graduate from UMBC’s Shady Grove campus this spring.
“I thought about dropping some classes so I could work more to be able to pay off my UMBC balance but then my sister told me I should look into seeing if UMBC has an emergency fund for students.”
Addressing Emergency Needs
UMBC’s Stay Black and Gold Emergency Fund is an initiative of the Student Government Association that provides emergency funding in awards ranging from $1,000 to $8,000 depending on needs arising from unexpected crises ranging from accidents to house fires, deaths of parents, loss of jobs and other sudden losses of income that could prevent the continuation of classes.
In the past year, five students have received funding, but as the world confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, this fund will become even more important for student success, explains Vice President for Institutional Advancement Greg Simmons, M.P.P. ’04, public policy.
“The Stay Black and Gold Emergency Fund acknowledges that sometimes we are faced with circumstances we could not have predicted and we need help from others,” he says. “Donors who give to this fund are committed to helping us do all we can to help students finish their degrees in the face of challenges they hadn’t expected, and in some cases hadn’t even imagined could be true.”
Last week, longtime UMBC supporters George and Betsy Sherman made a pledge of $25,000 to reinforce the fund, and other individual donations have been coming in steadily, including gifts from more than 40 new donors since a call went out for help yesterday.
Supporters have also been making donations to support UMBC’s Retriever Essentials Food Pantry, which offers dry goods and toiletries to students with those ongoing needs. Going forward, both of these funds will be crucial in helping UMBC students affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Like many universities across the country creating similar support systems for their students, UMBC will continue to try to grow its resources to respond to its community’s needs.
A Much-Needed Helping Hand
“When the committee approved me for the scholarship it was a relief off my shoulders knowing that I would not have to drop my classes in order to work more to pay off my balance and that most importantly that I would be able to graduate this year,” said Martinez, who has been accepted into the University of Maryland Baltimore’s advanced standing master’s of social work program in the fall.
As someone who hopes to eventually work in child welfare, she keenly appreciates what it means to be on the other end of the helping hand.
“Unfortunately, sometimes unexpected things happen not to just students but, to people in general, so having funds like this available to them really makes a difference,” she says. “For me it was allowing me to graduate on time with my class. So, thank you so much for donating, it is much appreciated.”