The harsh reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is impossible to escape: People everywhere are hurting, and many Colorado State University students are struggling to make ends meet as jobs disappear.
Fernando Montelongo certainly is not unique. A junior majoring in construction management, Montelongo lost the weekend construction job he had depended on to pay rent and buy groceries. And with jobs nearly impossible to find, the first-generation student from Denver wasn’t sure how he was going to pay his bills.
Montelongo contacted CSU’s Office of Financial Aid and found out about Ram Aid, a program designed to provide emergency funds for students. Sylvia Martinez, associate director of client services, was able to provide Montelongo with enough money to pay his bills and buy groceries.
“The Ram Aid funds helped me get back on my feet at the beginning of the crisis,” Montelongo said. “To the Ram Aid donors, I cannot thank you enough for the help you provide for students in need. As a first-generation student, sometimes I feel like I do not belong in a college campus like CSU, but it is always inspirational and comforting to know that there are people that are willing to support me and help me succeed in my college career. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your kindness and selflessness.”
Students like Montelongo provided the inspiration to an anonymous CSU supporter to donate $1 million to the Ram Aid program. The unprecedented gift will allow Ram Aid to help hundreds of students during the current crisis and beyond.
“We are incredibly grateful to this donor for providing this extremely generous gift,” said Joe Donlay, CSU’s director of financial aid. “A lot of our students are really hurting right now and this gift will make a big difference in a lot of lives.”
Ram Aid around for many years
Donlay said Ram Aid has been around for many years, and students work though the Office of Financial Aid to get the assistance they need to stay in school. More than 50 have been helped thus far, with students getting $1,000 in assistance, on average.
Martinez said CSU’s financial aid counselors look for the best way to help students in need, including federal, state and university programs. Ram Aid, which is funded by donations, helps fill the gaps.
“These conversations are always challenging, and now even more so with the global pandemic,” she said. “We want students to know that we care and we want them to reach out. It’s not just about them as a student – we care about them as an individual.”
The anonymous $1 million gift will provide lifelines for – on average – 1,000 students. The impact will be profound and lasting.
“I cannot thank this donor enough for this remarkable gift,” said Leslie Taylor, vice president of the Division of Enrollment and Access. “During these challenging times, this gift will provide hope for hundreds of students and keep them on track toward graduation. This really is a tremendous example of Rams taking care of Rams.”