Giving from the heart: York community steps up in a big way to help students face pandemic challenges

Glendon student Wilson Munoz remembers the moment his workplace closed in March. He was working behind the bar at Yorkdale mall’s Cheesecake Factory when Toronto Mayor John Tory announced dine-in services in restaurants across the city would have to close.

Munoz’s first thought went to his finances. His mind whirling, he ran through the list of bills that had already started piling up: rent, tuition, groceries, car payments, dog food, credit card, and more.

Wilson Munoz

Wilson Munoz

Not long after, Munoz received an email from his managers notifying him of his cancelled shifts. He started to panic.

“I was reeling,” Munoz says as he recalls the stress of those first few days after lockdown first began. “As much as I had tried to save, I am still a university student and, in the weeks before the pandemic, I had also lost a lot of my income from tips after diners stopped going out as much, so I hadn’t been able to really prepare for this.”

But for Munoz, help came just when he needed it most. He felt hopeful after reading an email from York University President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, announcing the York University Emergency Bursary for students who needed urgent financial aid to cover the unexpected costs of the pandemic.

“I was in such a dire need that I applied within a few hours of seeing that email,” Munoz says. “And when I was approved to receive $1,500 towards my expenses, I was so grateful to York University and the community that made this happen. At a time when everything was so uncertain, this money eased my stress.”

The University has committed $2 million to the Emergency Bursary and aid is already being distributed to students, but their need for emergency relief has far surpassed expectations. Thousands of students have applied for financial aid after incurring unexpected costs related to travel, emergency housing, food, and other necessities. Countless numbers of students have also lost part-time and summer jobs, internships, co-ops and other work they had lined up to pay for their university education.

The York community is rising to the challenge in a big way. Hundreds of York community members have rallied around our students by making donations to provide additional support to students through the York University Emergency COVID-19 Student Relief Fund. With support coming from alumni, donors, faculty, staff, the York University Alumni Board, and members of York’s Board of Governors, more than $120,000 has been donated to provide further funds for students. And with two special matching funds from the Pierre Lassonde Family Foundation and the Victor Dahdaleh Foundation totalling $300,000, donors are able to triple the value of their gifts to make three times the impact.

“I am incredibly proud of the way the students, staff, faculty, alumni and supporters have come together to support one another,” said Lenton. “Even in these extraordinary and challenging times, York continues to show how it is a caring community dedicated to the well-being and success of students. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to our emergency bursaries.”

The York University Emergency Bursary for students who needed urgent financial aid to cover the unexpected costs of the pandemic is helping students, however, their need for emergency relief has far surpassed expectations.

The York University Emergency Bursary for students who needed urgent financial aid to cover the unexpected costs of the pandemic is helping students, but their need for emergency relief has far surpassed expectations

She noted there is still much work to do make sure no student falls behind. As we head into the summer and fall, students will continue to need support. COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on students and the generous support of our community can help to provide funding to help them complete their education.

Munoz knows first-hand how much the support of the York community has meant to students over the past few months.

“Thank you to everyone from the bottom of my heart. This support means everything,” he says. “I am so grateful to everyone who has contributed. We really need it and we’re really struggling. If you are able, please consider making a donation to help other students like me.”

To learn more about how to help other students have access to the financial relief they need by making a donation, visit https://bit.ly/3eIYkGe.

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