By Amanda Joerndt
Youngstown State University students in critical need of financial help with the rapid outbreak of the coronavirus now have a resource to turn to with the YSU COVID-19 Emergency Fund.
The YSU Foundation launched a donation fund called Penguin-to-Penguin with “hope to raise $50,000 in the next 90 days to provide our most vulnerable students with emergency relief,” the YSU Foundation’s website states.
The fund had already reached $48,589 as of April 8.
General expenses that can be covered through the fund include medications and medical care, safety needs, travel costs related to a death or illness, rent, utilities and other basic necessities, according to the application.
YSU President Jim Tressel said he knew the university needed to act fast to help students in financial emergency situations during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The purpose is for us to make sure that we can handle any ongoing things for students who really have just an unusual moment … whether it’s a medical bill or transportation,” he said.
Tressel said the university is trying to accommodate different situations students face.
“We’re just trying to think of every way and every incident that could be coming someone’s way that we can be helpful,” he said.
Nathan Myers, associate provost for international and global initiatives, said his department conducted a survey and discovered the top two needs international students face during this pandemic.
“We got a response rate of 40, and the top two things were financial help more than usual. I think that was coming from a place where a lot of them worked student jobs,” he said. “Then number two in the list was actually finding food.”
Taufeeque Mohammad, a former international student at YSU, said international students rely heavily on student employment for their main source of income.
“The biggest issue is employment because international students can just work on campus,” he said. “We are here on talent. We are here on the scholarships.”
Mohammad said he also knows what his family is going through back at home in Nepal with COVID-19 spreading worldwide.
“It’s messed up back home too,” he said. “So even at this point of time, I can’t get help from my family.”
Myers said any amount of compensation would be beneficial for international students.
“You know 35 or 50 bucks. … That could be a real difference maker in order simply to buy groceries or order them for delivery,” he said. “I will say they do a pretty good job of looking after each other.”
International students aren’t the only ones needing assistance during the pandemic. Myers said domestic students are in the same position.
“I know a lot of our domestic students, they’re losing jobs too,” he said. “It’s not only the international students that need help.”
The fund is managed by the Division of Student Experience, the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships and the YSU Foundation.
Nicole Kent-Strollo, director of Student Outreach and Support, said she is responsible for administering funds to the students and applications started coming in right after the application was posted.
“I think the biggest challenge right now is we’re counting on those funds coming in. I think if we had our way, we would help everyone,” she said. “I think we’re at about 35 to 40 right now.”
Kent-Strollo said it’s amazing to see the Youngstown community help support the fund through different donations.
“What we’ve seen so far with regard to our alum, our faculty, our staff who have, like, jumped into a system anyway, even before the funds started,” she said.
Tressel said he urges students to reach out to the university for any assistance they need.
“Know that we’re here for you,” he said. “Sometimes all of us are so immersed in trying to take classes online or deliver classes online and being on all these conference calls.”
More information on YSU’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund can be found on the Division of Student Experience homepage and donations to the Penguin-to-Penguin fund can be made here.