As the COVID-19 pandemic turns our way of life upside down, one principle continues to be of utmost importance: the need to look out for one another.
Since mid-March when Michigan State University moved to remote learning to contain the spread of COVID-19, College of Arts & Letters alumni, parents, and friends have asked how they can help and dozens have contributed to the College’s Emergency Fund, which provides short-term assistance to students facing unexpected financial hardships that threaten their ability to attend MSU.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of Arts & Letters Emergency fund has benefited more than 31 students totaling more than $18,250. Here are the stories of two of those students.
Kara Sollars is the first person in her family to attend college. Her mom started working for Ford Motor Company right out of high school, and her dad began a home-based computer software company with just a high school diploma.
“It was always my mom and dad’s expectation that I would go to a four-year university,” she said. “But none of us expected my first year of college would be like this.”
Sollars grew up in Flat Rock, Michigan, a small town on the border of Wayne and Monroe counties. Her senior year in high school, she made her first trip to East Lansing to visit MSU’s campus. By the end of the tour, she knew she was bound for Spartan Country.
“Being a lawyer has been one of my dreams since I was a kid,” she said. “I just fell in love with MSU and knew I wanted to attend law school there.”
Sollars was mid-way through her second semester as a freshman Humanities-Prelaw student when MSU closed most of its campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic and transitioned to remote learning. She quickly packed her things and moved out of Brody Hall and made the two-hour drive home. She also resigned from her job at a local restaurant, leaving behind a source of income that helped pay for her tuition and books.
“I was really sad and disappointed at first, but I knew it was the right thing to do because of the pandemic,” she said. “The first few weeks were really tough, but with the support of my family, it all went well.”
Sollars set up her old bedroom to accommodate remote learning. She continued taking 14 credits. While different, she adapted to this new experience and found she had more time to devote to classes. But she missed MSU’s campus. She missed her friends, and she missed the comradery of her job and the income it generated.
Even though MSU is so big with so many square miles, receiving the scholarship made me realize it’s not so big after all. It showed me that MSU is a community of individuals helping others, and that it’s OK to lean on others now and again when you need help.Kara Sollars
“My parents try to help out as much as they can,” she said. “But it’s up to me to support myself and pay my tuition. I’ve been working since I was 16, and like it. Losing my job was really hard.”
Receiving an emergency scholarship gave Sollars peace of mind that she wouldn’t have to face the fall semester without adequate funds for tuition and books. She now is looking ahead to renewing college life and has set goals for her sophomore year.
“Even though MSU is so big with so many square miles, receiving the scholarship made me realize it’s not so big after all,” she said. “It showed me that MSU is a community of individuals helping others, and that it’s OK to lean on others now and again when you need help.”
Although a commuter, Louai Massri would spend the majority of his day on MSU’s campus. He worked two jobs. He took classes. And he pressed ahead with plans to graduate in fall 2020 with his bachelor’s in Experience Architecture (XA) and a minor in Digital Humanities.
But then in mid-March the pandemic shuttered campus, sending most students and non-essential staff to study and work from home. Massri immediately set himself up for remote learning from his home. His work was another story.
“My jobs were affected when campus closed,” he said. “I had fewer work hours and uncertainty as well about going to work and being in contact with other people, and then returning home, which might put my family at risk. I do have some scholarship money, but my source of income for expenses at school and at home was reduced a lot. It was a problem to go from being income independent to dependent.”
Massri heard about the College of Arts & Letters’ emergency fund from his advisor and applied. He received the scholarship in mid-May and used it to cover late fees from the spring semester. He also used a portion to pay living expenses.
Recently, Massri began an online internship with a nonprofit focused on curating content in the humanities and social sciences. The money he earns from the internship, combined with the emergency scholarship funding, has allowed him to regain his financial footing.
MSU is like a family, with people who are there to provide support when you need it. In the future, if someone needs help, I will definitely help as much as I can. It’s like a circle — you help someone, you receive help, too.Louai Massri
Massri’s life experience, having immigrated with his family to the United States from Syria five years ago, instilled a sense of responsibility to give to others when you can — particularly in cases of economic or social upheaval. Before the pandemic, he always set aside a portion of his income to donate to charitable causes. Come fall, he’s hoping to get back to a regular giving cycle and to finish his last semester in a campus setting.
“MSU is like a family, with people who are there to provide support when you need it,” he said. “In the future, if someone needs help, I will definitely help as much as I can. It’s like a circle — you help someone, you receive help, too.”
College of Arts & Letters Emergency Fund
The College of Arts & Letters Emergency Funds may be used for books and other essential academic expenses, safety needs, travel costs related to a family emergency, etc. Any donations to this fund directly help students to receive the assistance they need to continue their education.
If you are looking for a way to help and have the means to do so, we encourage you to consider a donation to this fund.
To make a donation to the College of Arts & Letters’ Emergency Fund, visit the Giving to Michigan State University website.