Home » Giving from the heart: York community steps up in a big way to help students face pandemic challenges

Giving from the heart: York community steps up in a big way to help students face pandemic challenges

Glendon student Wilson Munoz remembers the moment his workplace closed in March. He was working behind the bar at Yorkdale mall’s Cheesecake Factory when Toronto Mayor John Tory announced dine-in services in restaurants across the city would have to close.

Wilson’s first thought went to his finances. His mind reeling, he ran through the list of bills that had already started piling up: rent, tuition, groceries, car payments, dog food, credit card, and more.

Not long after, Wilson received an email from his managers notifying him of his cancelled shifts. He started to panic.

“I was reeling,” Wilson says as he recalls the stress of those first few days after lockdown first began. “As much as I had tried to save, I am still a university student and, in the weeks before the pandemic, I had also lost a lot of my income from tips after diners stopped going out as much, so I hadn’t been able to really prepare for this.”

But for Wilson, help came just when he needed it most. He felt hopeful after reading an email from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, announcing the York University Emergency Bursary for students who needed urgent financial aid to cover the unexpected costs of the pandemic.

“I was in such a dire need that I applied within a few hours of seeing that email,” Wilson says. “And when I was approved to receive $1,500 towards my expenses, I was so grateful to York University and the community that made this happen. At a time when everything was so uncertain, this money eased my stress.”

The University has committed $2M to the Emergency Bursary and aid has been distributed to students since March, but their need for emergency relief has far surpassed expectations. Thousands of students have applied for financial aid after incurring unexpected costs related to travel, emergency housing, food, and other necessities. Countless numbers of students have also lost part-time and summer jobs, internships, co-ops and other work they had lined up to pay for their university education.

The York community rose to the challenge in a big way.

Hundreds of York community members have rallied around our students by making donations to provide additional support to students through the York University Emergency COVID-19 Student Relief Fund. With support coming from alumni, donors, faculty, staff, the York University Alumni Board, and members of York’s Board of Governors, over $450,000 has been raised to provide further supports for students.

“I am incredibly proud of the way students, staff, faculty, alumni and supporters have come together to help one another,” said President Lenton. “Even in these extraordinary and challenging times, York continues to be a caring community dedicated to the well-being and success of students. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to our emergency bursaries.”

President Lenton noted there is still much work to do make sure no student falls behind. As we head into the winter season, students will continue to need support. COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on students, and the generous support of our community can help to provide funding to assist them in completing their education.

Wilson knows first-hand how much the support of the York community has meant to students over the past few months.

“Thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart. This support means everything,” he says. “I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed. We really need it and we’re really struggling. If you are able, please consider making a donation to help other students like me.”

Help students access the financial relief they need by making a donation online: alumniandfriends.yorku.ca/give/.

Champions spearheading relief efforts

York University alumni and long-standing donors Pierre Lassonde and Victor Dahdaleh responded quickly to the urgent need students are experiencing in the wake of the pandemic by contributing a combined $300,000 towards the York University Emergency COVID-19 Student Relief Fund as a match to encourage others to give.

“York students need us,” Pierre said. “It’s imperative that the community steps in to support every student through their university education.” At his namesake Lassonde School of Engineering, students, staff and faculty are working on groundbreaking researching to develop technological solutions to help stop COVID-19 transmission.

Victor, who established the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, echoed those comments: “Students must be supported through this crisis. More now than ever, today’s students must complete their education to become tomorrow’s leaders.”

In the current reality of COVID-19, the Dahdaleh Institute and its team is fast becoming a trusted resource for the world.

Around the world, friends of York are pulling together to contribute to COVID-19 solutions at home and abroad. Learn more about these collective efforts at yubettertogether.info.yorku.ca.