(KTXL) — The once-bustling campus of Columbia College in Sonora is now a ghost town. In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, the campus was shut down more than a month ago.
“So, they lost not only the campus, the internet access that we provide here but also income, child care, everything associated,” said Amy Nilson.
Nilson, who works with the Columbia College Foundation, said the school set up a $25,000 COVID-19 financial hardship fund in April to help students impacted by the pandemic.
“Parents telling us that, you know, they were without child care. … They’re unsure whether they’re going to be able to keep their housing,” Nilson told FOX40.
In just two days, more than 400 students applied for financial help.
“The students that were in the dorms were struggling with what they were going to do,” said Nilson. “So, we heard a lot of heart-wrenching stories and yet, they were so committed.”
Right away, the CCF said they noticed one of the biggest challenges for staff and students was internet access.
“We have a lot of local students but they’re spread out over a large geographic area. And many of them, as many in our community, struggle with internet access,” explained Nilson. “So, the switch over to everything being remote, remote learning and online learning was a particular challenge.”
With so many students in need, the CCF partnered with the Sonora Area Foundation, which matched their $25,000 donation.
The CCF is hoping the $250 grants will allow students to buy internet hotspots or help offset the cost of upgraded internet plans.
SAF Executive Director Darrell Slocum said his organization jumped at the chance to help.
“We just have a generous, giving community that steps up when need arises, and so this was just another example of that,” said Slocum.
Both Slocum and Nilson said while they know the money won’t solve all their students’ problems, they want them to know they have the community’s support.
“I hope that they take this as a vote of encouragement. We know it’s not enough to solve the problems but it’s intended to just help them keep going and that we’re here for them,” said Nilson. “We care about them. The community cares about them.”