The world as we knew it stopped in March 2020 as news of COVID-19 hitting the United States came flooding in. Many employees began working from home, and K-12 schools, colleges, and universities switched rapidly to virtual learning platforms.
As coronavirus cases have decreased, students once again have returned to life on-campus at West Hills College Coalinga and West Hills College Lemoore. The pandemic changed many people’s reality and impacted mental health, financial stability, and day-to-day living. To help students with the transition back to normal life, West Hills College Coalinga and West Hills College Lemoore have offered its students emergency relief grants.
In Spring 2022, any full-time student enrolled in 12 or more units received $1,000 - no strings attached. Many West Hills students put this money towards living expenses, laptops, books, food, and gas money.
West Hills College Coalinga student, Devin Delgado owned a car that needed repairs and he knew emergency grant funds could help him with this need. “For me personally, I had to fix up my car,” said Delgado. “Getting a thousand dollars in these unpredicted times is helpful.”
Many West Hills students used their emergency funds for transportation and fuel costs, but there were no restrictions placed on how a student could spend funds.
“It’s my fuel to get to school,” said West Hills College Lemoore student Ashley Ratcliff-Winn. “If I didn’t have that funding, I wouldn’t be able to come to school. I wouldn’t be able to get here every day. I wouldn’t have the security I do now.”
West Hills emergency grants are helping students face financial hurdles beyond what scholarships and book vouchers currently provide for.
“The pandemic has only made the situation worse,” said Executive Director of the West Hills Community College Foundation Alex Perez. “Students need to pay rent, buy groceries, pay for gas, pay internet bills, and other expenses that can distract them or keep them from focusing on their education. The emergency grants we are providing are helping students where they need help the most.”
West Hills has been making emergency grants available since 2020 thanks to federal funds provided by the CARES Act through Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF).
“Over the past two years, the district has provided over 6.9 million dollars directly to students,” said West Hills Community College District Director of Grants, Brian Boomer. “We have awarded over 9,000 individual grants as well.”