10:54 AM

Alumni Association endowment added to Hawk Emergency Fund to further support students

Funds generated by the University of Houston-Clear Lake Alumni Association Program Development Endowment Fund are granted annually by the Alumni Partnership Board to recipients for use in faculty, student program development projects or to support programs that enhance the students’ educational experience. This year, due to the changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the funds available for distribution have been redirected to the Hawk Emergency Fund.

The Hawk Emergency Fund was established during Hurricane Harvey to address the needs of the UH-Clear Lake students during that disaster, and continues supporting those in need, said UHCL Alumni Partnership Chair Marilyn Sims.

“We were revisiting the existing endowment, which was set up about 20 years ago by alumni leadership to provide funds for students, faculty or staff lacking the financial means to attend a conference, do research, or launch a program,” said Kanchana Weerasinghe, also an Alumni Partnership board member.

“For many years, individuals or organizations on campus could apply to request funds from this endowment, but fast forward to a few months ago,” he said. “The pandemic had begun to hit and alumni leadership had heard about the needs of the students. It was decided to take a different approach because we believed the university was best served by allocating this money to the Hawk Emergency Fund.”

Sims said that after being presented with the hardships facing the student body, and working within the guidelines of the Program Development Endowment’s mission, it was the Board’s unanimous choice to allocate this year’s entire annual distribution to give assistance to students’ needs. The $10,000 award was granted to UHCL’s Dean of Students David Rachita, who receives applications and distributes the funds.

Rachita said that student applicants requesting a distribution from the Hawk Emergency Fund must demonstrate need arising from extreme extenuating circumstances. “Because of COVID-19 and the overwhelming need, we had to decrease the cap from $500 to $250 per student,” he said. “Nearly all the applicants have lost their job, or their parents have lost their jobs, or they’re single parents who have relied on school breakfast and lunch programs to help feed their children,” he said.

Rachita added that more financial assistance might be available for students in need. “I always send the applications to the Office of Financial Aid because often, they are able to find other emergency grant money for these students in larger amounts than what I am able to give,” he said.

“The alumni endowment money is being spread as far as possible,” Rachita said. “Generally, I might see two to five applications for Hawk Emergency Funds in a semester,” he said. Due to COVID-19, I’ve seen 1,200 applications. Since April 1, I have awarded 239 people $60,000 and the receipt of $10,000 grant from the Alumni Partnership’s endowment helped tremendously.”

Learn more about financial assistance available through the Hawk Emergency Fund online.