When the spread of COVID-19 forced students off-campus in March 2020, it left many under- or unemployed. BLI’s ALA 175 Leadership Lab instructor Fatema Haque shared the stories of several student employees and students who were struggling to pay for housing, unexpected moving costs, and/or utilities/basic needs. In response, the BLI team transitioned one of their existing grant programs into a COVID-19 hardship grant program, rewriting the application format and criteria to expedite the review process. In one week, a grant program originally designed to fund student projects was transformed to cover unexpected, emergent expenses that threatened to derail student degree progress.  

To date, the BLI has awarded 30 personal grants in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,000 to fellows struggling with personal hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Applicants shared similar economic and housing insecurity stories and outlined the many ways they tried to make ends meet. The impact of the program and the feedback received from grant beneficiaries cemented the staffs’ belief that the shift of funds was invaluable to their personal and academic experiences.   

With the present circumstances of the world, the BLI has been one of the few places on campus that offer COVID-19 relief to students in need… With utmost gratitude, my family and I feel lucky to have been a recipient and to have been able to cover the unexpected, emergent expenses that came as a result of the pandemic.

Being a full-time student and employee during this past school year while having to deal with the negative impacts of Covid-19 was a big challenge for me personally. This newer program the BLI has implemented with the Covid-19 grant personally helped me tremendously... The financial and emotional support that the professional staff and the BLI have provided, was a huge relief for me personally during my academic journey while in the pandemic.

This team created a time-limited project that had an incredible impact on my personal and professional life. This past year has been one of the hardest on my physical and mental wellbeing, and a hardship throughout has been finding ways to financially support myself… The staff and this program helped me make it through the toughest semester of my college career. I also cannot finish without expressing my gratitude towards these staff who not only pushed this wonderful program but who have constantly supported me and made me feel part of a tight-knit community. I have never felt more supported and welcomed in a time of incredible stress and uncertainty.

This project was one of two driven by the team’s desire to create positive experiences for students despite the isolated and stressful environmental pressures affecting all of us. It is impossible to be engaged and creative if you are at risk of losing your home or are dealing with the acute stress of caring for a sick family member. The BLI worked toward a positive solution to deliver funding for needs that had the potential to thwart their degree progress and hopefully offer a small moment of relief during the pandemic.