Last week, we sent out an email appealing to our Alfred University community to help students arriving on our campus for the Fall 2020 semester overcome challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the key challenges relates to New York State’s requirement for students from international locations or states on the travel advisory list to quarantine for 14 days.
Some of our students have not been able to come to campus to quarantine for the requisite 14 days in advance of the arrival of students from states not on New York State’s travel advisory list—due to summer employment obligations, family responsibilities, difficulty making travel arrangements, and so on. Some have been forced to find alternative living arrangements while they fulfill their quarantining responsibilities. This may involve paying for a hotel and meals, which in some cases creates a financial hardship.
The response to last week’s appeal for help demonstrated what makes our University so Outside of Ordinary.
Kelly Stephens of Hornell, whose son, Rick Mattison ’22, attends our University, reached out to one lonely student who arrived on campus last week. Kelly is part of a parent-to-parent group on Facebook and read another mother’s post about her son arriving on campus from Ohio and feeling isolated in quarantine. Kelly put together a care package for the young man and dropped it off at his residence hall on Sunday.
“Coming from their home to a new setting and the start of their college studies, they’ve got to be feeling kind of lonely,” Kelly recalled thinking, knowing there had to be other students feeling the same way. She spent part of the day Tuesday driving to different stores in our area, buying eight cases of bottled water and 22 fans, which she delivered to campus for distribution among our students.
On Wednesday, Kelly delivered a pickup truck loaded with snacks she had purchased from Sam’s Club. Why did Kelly spend three days purchasing and delivering items for strangers? “I know the parents’ anguish being so far away and not being able to take care of their kids, not being able to give them the things they need,” she explained. “I’m sitting here, I’m 20 minutes away. I’m thinking, I have to do something. And, being a parent, I worry less now. Hopefully all our kids will be okay.”
A heartwarming story, indeed, and one that gives us all hope that we will weather this storm. For those who wish to make similar donations—a simple gesture of kindness can go a long way toward helping our students through this difficult time—we suggest joining what we call Kelly’s Corps. If you wish to do so, please reach out to Tamara Kenney, our dean of Student Wellbeing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another story that demonstrates how a simple act of kindness can make a world of difference in someone’s life (or in this case, three lives) comes from Buffalo. Tamara Stephen, whose daughter, Malina Dittmer ’23, is a current Alfred University student, is hosting three students from California in her home, allowing them to quarantine there and avoid having to pay for a hotel and meals.
Tamara and her husband, Paul, have hosted numerous foreign exchange students in the past from China, Italy, France, and Puerto Rico. She said she welcomed the three students into her home after thinking of her own child being placed in a similar situation. “I would be stressed if my daughter were living in quarantine on a campus. It just blows my mind,” Tamara explained. “That’s why I offer my home. I know I would be stressed out if I were another little one’s mom going through this. I figure, I’ll just mom a couple of little ones.”
One more avenue that exists for helping new and returning students in their transition to Alfred University life is our University’s Student Emergency Relief Fund. A number of alumni and friends have already donated to the fund in support of students in need. The Fund was started by Jay Yedvab ’56, with an initial gift of $1,000 (the approximate cost of lodging and meals for one student for 14 days of quarantining in a hotel), which was matched by several alumni and friends. After last week’s appeal, our University has secured over $20,000 in cash and pledges from 43 donors to the Fund.
The challenges our students and University face are not easily overcome. Meeting them requires every member of our campus community to follow practices that promote health and safety. We also rely on the Alfred University community—people like Kelly Stephens, Tamara and Paul Stephen, and Jay Yedvab and others who donated to the Student Emergency Relief Fund—to step forward and lend a helping hand. Please join me in thanking these alumni and friends for their inspiring generosity.