Gala With A Twist
Beginning as a fun, nontraditional biennial fundraising event, Gala with a Twist, the San Jacinto College Foundation’s highly anticipated virtual gala quickly turned into a lifeline for students.
“I had originally heard about ‘phantom galas’ from an out-of-state nonprofit organization,” said Tom Watson, San Jacinto College Foundation Board chair. “They couldn’t host a formal gala every year because of all the time and work needed, so they needed to do something that would still bring in donations on the years between each formal gala. I believed this was perfect for us, and we created the ‘Gala with a Twist.’
Our donors welcomed the opportunity to support this ‘non-gala.’ Our donors give to help the students, not to attend a formal event. When we planned this event, COVID had not yet turned the world upside down, so our ‘Gala with a Twist’ became a well-planned virtual success in a year that a normal gala would not have been possible.”
The Gala with a Twist raised $360,500 from January to June 2020, and proceeds benefited immediate student needs such as tuition, books, food, clothing, transportation, child care, and more.
In March 2020, the San Jacinto College Foundation Board of Directors approved $200,000 in emergency funding to assist students during COVID-19. These funds, combined with $90,000 from additional sources, were dispersed as scholarships up to $250 per student upon completion of an online application through the Foundation’s website.
“We knew that circumstances changed for many of our students as a result of the COVID-19 situation, and we wanted a way to be able to help these individuals,” said Tom Watson, San Jacinto College Foundation Board chair. “We wanted our students to complete their certificate or degree without the worry of added expenses. I thank the foundation board and College leadership for their support of these efforts to assist our students.”
San Jac Cares Connects Students To Resources
When COVID-19 hit, many San Jacinto College students didn’t know whom to turn to with questions about completing the spring 2020 semester, understanding their financial aid, and registering for fall 2020. Launched in April 2020, the San Jac Cares program connected students to employees and resources so they could navigate COVID-19 and the College’s altered operations. Employee volunteers received weekly spreadsheets with at least 25 students to call or email. The primary goal: Checking on students. Are you doing OK? How are your classes going? The secondary goal: Ensuring students had resources and information. Do you have a computer and internet? Do you know about the fall 2020 course delivery options? What needs do you have? No one could have expected COVID-19 to show up with no expiration date, upending education and everything else. During a trying time, San Jac Cares broke through barriers, connecting students with compassionate voices and solutions.
San Jac Cares Summary To Date
More than 381 employee volunteers
Phase 1: 12,300 first-time-in-college (FTIC) students and students without distance learning experience
Phase 2: 12,900 randomly-chosen students enrolled in spring 2020 classes
Phase 3: 14,700 students not registered for summer or fall 2020
Phase 4: 6,100 students not registered for fall 2020
Phase 5: 5,000 FTIC students enrolled in fall 2020 classes
Phase 6: 1,800 Math and A&P students
Phase 7: 3,400 FTIC students not registered for spring 2021
Total calls from all phases: 53,000+
Cares Act Grants
In May 2020, the College received federal grant funding for students through the CARES Act. The CARES Act provided emergency grants for students to use for food, housing, and other costs related to the disruption of campus operations during the pandemic.
After completing the San Jac CARES Act Emergency Aid Grant Application and submitting required documents, 4,138 students received funds totaling $4,475,232.
“The federal CARES Act legislation allowed San Jacinto College to add extra financial assistance to students who needed it most,” said Robert Merino, College dean of financial aid services. “COVID-19 had a tremendous effect on almost all aspects of higher education, which in turn caused financial strain on some students. The CARES Act funding helped provide some additional peace of mind for students so they could focus on finishing the spring, summer, and fall semesters successfully and showed students that we will continue to do everything we can to support them and their educational goals.”
The College also received an additional $4.6 million in CARES Act funding to support operational needs related to altered operations during the pandemic.