Safety Net
Donors rally to support students affected by COVID-19 crisis
Jamila Peguero '21
When Jamila Peguero ’21 learned that UNH Manchester would be switching to remote learning in the wake of the spreading COVID-19 crisis, she knew that meant she’d no longer be working at the university library, where she holds down a part-time job.

It’s okay, she figured. She’d go back to substitute teaching and working at an afterschool program to help make ends meet. But then schools started to close — first for two weeks, then for two more. Then came stay-at-home orders, and school closures into May. As someone who contributes to her family’s household costs and pays many of her own expenses, she started to panic.

“Those other jobs were my last resort; typically, I have two jobs at a time to stay afloat,” Peguero explains. “All of a sudden, I lost all of my jobs.” She says in these extraordinary times, there’s no shame in asking for assistance. “I mean, we all need help, right? It’s really important to put yourself out there, to think ‘this is something that I need, and it’s okay.’”

Peguero is among dozens of students who have received help from the university’s new Student Emergency Assistance Fund, supported entirely through the generosity of donors. Since the onset of COVID-19, more than 500 people have made donations — faculty, staff, parents, alumni and current students, as well as a $25,000 matching gift from Morgan Rutman ’84, and his wife, Tara. Awards typically range from $100 to $500 and can be used for such things as emergency travel, medical costs, safety and security needs, auto repairs and academic supplies.

“This is the first time we’ve had this kind of support for students in crisis,” says Ted Kirkpatrick, senior vice provost for student life and dean of students. “This is really geared toward students who, through no fault of their own, don’t have the safety nets that others might have.”

Once she graduates with her psychology degree, Peguero plans to pursue a master’s degree so she can work in elementary education. As an active member of the UNHM Peer Assistant Leaders program, she’s usually busy thinking of how she can support her fellow students and help them acclimate to college life through better time management skills, stress relief and coping tactics. It was a change when she realized she was the one who needed help this time.

“I just want donors to know how much this means to me, and how much they have helped me,” she says. “This is really amazing, so thank you.”

— ‘97 Michelle Morrissey
To make a gift to the Student Emergency Assistance Fund, please visit here