South Jersey colleges trying to help students stranded by storm
Atlantic Cape Community College student Monica Tejeda, 38, of Atlantic City is currently doing her homework in the business center at the Days Inn in Egg Harbor Township.
Hurricane Sandy left more than five feet of water in her home off Albany Avenue, ruining her books and personal computer, and forcing her into a hotel, at least temporarily.
“It’s really hard without a computer because I am taking an online course, and the college uses an online program for assignments,” she said, adding she is very grateful the Days Inn has a computer she can use for now.
Atlantic Cape and Richard Stockton College staff reopened the campuses as quickly as possible after the storm to give students a safe place to go and help them return some normalcy to their lives.
Stockton has offered reduced rate student housing at $20 per night for the rest of the semester to commuting students whose homes were damaged in the storm. So far 11 students have taken the offer said Denise O’Neill, interim Director of Residential Life.
Both Atlantic Cape and Stockton have also started relief funds to help students replace the school materials they lost, or to get some extra money they might need for commuting costs
Professors are being asked to extend deadlines for class work as necessary, and to see if their students need help in the recovery process.
Stockton philosophy professor Anne Pomeroy, president of the Stockton Federation of Teachers said many employees were also affected by the storm, and the college’s unions have set up a fund for them which has raised more than $9,000. She said people are just helping each other and students as much as they can.
“We’ve asked for extra copies of textbooks to be put in the library, and for professors to check their classes to see if students have not yet returned so we can reach out to them,” Pomeroy said.
Stockton Provost Harvey Kesselman said students can visit the financial aid office to see if more traditional forms of assistance may also be available to them.
Patricia Gentile, Dean of Resources Development at Atlantic Cape, said the college foundation had only about $1,000 left from some endowments this semester that could be used to help students replace materials. So they started their relief fund to make small grants of about $200 available to students as quickly as possible.
As of Wednesday the fund had collected an additional $2,600 and about a dozen people had applied for the grants at the financial aid office.
Donations included $12.65 from Gentile’s grandson, Will Owens, 6, a first grader in Egg Harbor Township, who wanted to donate money from his piggy bank to student Dominick Respo of Ventnor who had been in contact with Gentile after his home was damaged in the flood and he was forced to move to a hotel.
Respo said he was touched that a young child wanted to help, but he didn’t want to take the money personally so he suggested Will donate it to the fund. He said he was able to save some items from his apartment, but a lot was lost and he doesn’t yet know where he is going to live.
“It’s just been really stressful,” he said. “I’m happy to get back to school and back into that routine.”
Tejeda said she now has additional transportation expenses to get to the Atlantic Cape campus in Atlantic City. She was laid off at the end of September from the job she had with a non-profit group after their grant funding ran out, and she does not expect to be able to return to her apartment for at least a couple of months while repairs are made.
A victim of Hurricane Katrina, she evacuated Atlantic City before the storm, but lost almost everything she left behind.
“People here (at the Days Inn) have been really nice,” she said. “Right now school is my focus and I could really use some help.”
TO MAKE A DONATION
Donations to the Stockton Student Relief Fund are being handled by Chief Development Officer Philip T. Elmore at (609) 626-3546.
Stockton students in need of assistance should contact the Student Affairs office.
Donations to the Atlantic Cape Community College Relief Fund can be sent to the College Foundation and 341 Court House-South Dennis Road, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210-1972 or contact Patricia Gentile at (609) 463-4507.
Atlantic Cape students needed assistance can contact Kenya Goods at 609-625-1111 ext. 5279 or firstname.lastname@example.org, to complete an application.