Supporting Our Students Fund Eases Distance Learning

Surge of donor gifts provides laptops and hot spots for students.
Jeremy Shapiro

When Mikayla Kricfalusi ’20’s computer broke at her family’s home in Vista, California, this spring, she had to resort to getting class assignments and discussions via text messages from her classmates.

Kricfalusi, a biochemistry and sociology major, knew that method of distance learning was unsustainable. When she reached out to the College about the problem, Information Technology Services (ITS) quickly shipped her a laptop.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do anything for any of my classes without this laptop,” she says. “It was essential to continue being a student. I am so grateful.”

“To the alumni, thank you for being so generous and responsive. Community shows up in times of crises, and I am lucky to be a part of Grinnell’s.” — Mikayla Kricfalusi ’20

When the College announced March 10 it would switch to distance learning after spring break in an effort to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of students had concerns about not having the technology at home to access online classes.

The Supporting Our Students (SOS) Fund helped resolve the problem. The donor-generated fund supports immediate and ongoing student needs related to the pandemic. Gifts helped students travel home and were used to supply Wi-Fi for students without internet access at home. A total of 57 students received a laptop, mobile hot spot, or both.

As of mid-May, more than $114,000 had been raised from about 500 donors.

“In a time of great need, it’s heartening to see so many step up and provide resources to those at risk,” says Brad Lindberg, assistant vice president for enrollment. “I’m extraordinarily grateful for the generosity displayed.”

Ashton Aveling ’22 lives in California’s rural San Gorgonio Pass, where it’s not sufficiently profitable for internet service providers to extend high-speed internet access, he says. Aveling, who is studying economics with a concentration in global development studies, missed most of the first week of classes after spring break.

“It took about two hours on my home network to download a course overview document my statistics professor had sent,” he said in an April interview. “Now I have a hot spot and have been catching up. This is a brutally difficult time for everyone. Donors definitely made my life a lot easier by helping to give me and others the tools to finish out this semester. I don’t know what I would have done without the hot spot. All the libraries and coffee shops around here are closed.”

Grinnell’s Financial Aid office coordinated with Division of Student Affairs and ITS to broadcast the availability of laptops and mobile hot spots to students with financial need. Some students were able to pick up the laptops or hot spots before they traveled home. The rest of the equipment was sent through the campus mailroom, says Missy Gansen, ITS marketing and communications program manager.

“We provided instructions for students who received hot spots along with information on how to reach us for assistance,” she says. “There were very few requests for assistance, so we believe the devices were intuitive to use. This initiative is a great example of several campus departments coming together to help instructional continuity.”

Kricfalusi says she was surprised and touched by how much the Grinnell community came together to address the varied and urgent needs of students.

“To the alumni, thank you for being so generous and responsive,” she says. “Community shows up in times of crises, and I am lucky to be a part of Grinnell’s.”

To support the SOS Fund, visit Supporting Our Students.

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