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Helping students thrive as SFU turns 55

Past students take care of current students. That’s part of the beauty and an underlying philosophy of a vibrant alumni network. It’s also part of the mission of the SFU Alumni Association.

So when, in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, its impact on students became clear, the Alumni Association knew it had to help—and stepped up with a generous gift of $55,000 to the SFU Student Urgent Response Fund.

“Current students are our future alumni, and supporting their educational and professional journeys has always been a priority for us,” says Jasmine Cumberland (BBA Hons ’09), President of the SFU Alumni Association.

“With everything happening so quickly with this pandemic, we knew that students are just trying to survive and don’t necessarily have the time to focus on school. We saw what SFU was doing and we wanted to help.”

The SFU Student Urgent Response Fund is an initiative that ensures students with the greatest need can quickly access financial assistance for day-to-day essentials such as rent, food, and medications; technology equipment to complete virtual classes; or unexpected travel costs that allowed them to reunite with family as the situation unfolded.

So far, the Urgent Response Fund has helped nearly 325 students with unanticipated financial challenges due to the crisis. More than 2,000 students have applied for support and that number continues to grow.

Starting April 27, every donation to the fund will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by the Association up to $55,000. The amount was chosen, Cumberland explains, to mark the university’s 55th anniversary later in 2020 and to celebrate the resilience of SFU’s alumni community.

The match also includes an opportunity for alumni members unable to make a financial gift to write an encouraging note to a student in the graduating class of 2020 instead. The Alumni Association will match each note submitted with $100 to the SFU Student Urgent Response Fund.

“New graduates need our support more than ever,” Cumberland says. “I graduated in 2009 right in the middle of a recession. I know what it’s like to be looking for a job in uncertain times. These messages are a chance to welcome them into the SFU alumni community and let them know there is a way forward.”