Wells Fargo Foundation Lends a Helping Hand to the Region’s Community College Students

Friday, May 1, 2020

Wells Fargo Foundation donates $75K to region's community college foundations to boosts
emergency funds for students impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

The Wells Fargo Foundation recently made a generous commitment to the region’s community college students in the form of a $75,000 regional grant to foundations of Gateway, Housatonic, and Norwalk community colleges. The funds will be used to help alleviate some of the financial hardships brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Wells Fargo Foundation is dedicated to serving those in need,” said Kevin E. Burke, Market Executive for Wells Fargo’s Middle Market Banking in Connecticut and New York Capitol Region.  “The foundation is focused on three key initiatives: housing affordability, financial health and small business growth,” Burke said. “The global Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the health and economic well-being of our neighbors and communities in ways no one ever could have imagined possible. We are both honored and humbled to help community college students deal with the very real challenges this crisis poses to their financial health, their capacity to provide for themselves and their families, and their ability to pursue their education.”

The grant, which awarded to the College Foundations at Gateway Community College, Housatonic Community College, and Norwalk Community College for their emergency funds will provide direct assistance to students who need help with basic needs like rent, food or utility bills.

The GCCF will channel its portion of the grant to its Helping Hands Fund. A student assistance fund designed to help students who are experiencing a short-term financial hardship or crisis for which they could not have been prepared, and for which no resources are available to help the student resolve the crisis. The program sends payments directly to the vendor providing the goods or services.

“Though the Helping Hands program has been in existence for more than 10 years, the current health crisis has dramatically increased the number of students requesting financial help,” said Mary Ellen Cody, Gateway’s dean of development and community partnerships. “There are currently more than 175 Gateway students requesting assistance in paying an expense that will enable them to remain on track to complete their academic programs,” she said.

All three community college foundations in the Shoreline-West region are experiencing an increase in requests for assistance. They continue to respond to emergency requests and provide scholarships for tuition assistance.

"This (assistance) will really help me to pay my health insurance,” said Chelsea L. Celotto, a full-time nursing student at Gateway who expects to graduate in May.  “My entire weekends are based on working to pay my bills throughout the month... It’s definitely a scary time, especially with no end in sight. It makes me extremely anxious and nervous for the future. The assistance helps me to stay afloat for the month. I greatly appreciate this.”

Thomas Coley, President of the Shoreline-West region of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which includes Gateway, Housatonic and Norwalk community colleges, is grateful for the regional impact that the grant will have.

“Our college foundations are working diligently to respond to the increased need for student support,” he said. “The generosity of our community partners has made all the difference in our ability to respond.  We appreciate everything that the Wells Fargo Foundation is doing to help our students continue their studies during this unprecedented and challenging time. Their generosity is making an indelible impact on our region.”

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