Of the hardships imposed on college students during this pandemic, the added burden of being financially responsible for their educations and living expenses can be overwhelming. Many of the jobs upon on which college students rely – in service industries and on campus – were lost this spring, casting some into financial turmoil.

At the University of North Dakota, the UND Angel Fund, administered by the Division of Student Affairs and Diversity, has been a lifeline for students in need of emergency aid. Since the Grand Forks Herald first reported on the fund on April 14, it has gone on to make a tremendous difference in the lives of UND students. As of mid-May, nearly 100 grants had been made to students averaging just over $650 each.

Student applicants have been sharing heartbreaking stories as they reach out for help. “I have recently become homeless and am living on Social Security of under $1,000 a month,” wrote an applicant, “I am needing to find affordable housing and finish up my coursework at the same time. I don’t have the financial ability to do both at this time.” Another wrote, “I am struggling to find ways to make money right now. My mother works in the service industry and is currently unemployed due to COVID-19. We are very scared for what the next few months will bring.”

On phone calls and video chats with alumni around the country, invariably the first question they ask is, “How are the students doing?” One alumna was so moved by the stories she heard that she made a second substantial gift to the fund and created a match to encourage others to give. UND faculty members are also stepping up to make a difference in the lives of their students. Donations to the fund are now approaching $100,000, and I cannot say enough about this exceptional university’s alumni and friends who have reached out to help in these unsettling times.

This connection between alumni and the students attending their alma mater has always been an important element of the UND student experience. That bond is going to be even more important in the weeks and months ahead as we all work together to make sure UND, its students, faculty and staff quickly and fully recover.

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I am confident that we will pull together to make that happen, especially after reading this response from a student helped by the UND Angel Fund: “What a wonderful gift! It couldn’t be more timely for me. I will definitely pay it forward someday.”

We are One UND!

DeAnna Carlson Zink, a 1986 UND graduate, is CEO of UND’s Alumni Association and Foundation.