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Sierra attempting to raise $250,000 for student fund

Money would be for personal emergencies
By: Amber Marra, Journal Staff Writer
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The Sierra College Foundation is attempting to put more money into a special fund for students who are in moments of crisis that might seem minor, but could cost them their academic career.

Last year David Mitchell, 35, was having one of these moments. Mitchell is studying human services at Sierra College with hopes of becoming a counselor for those addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Mitchell decided to attend Sierra after ending a 13-year relationship, meaning he had to get a new place to live and start over from scratch.

"So I got out of that relationship and got my first apartment, which we all know how it is with a first apartment," Mitchell said. "I paid five months of my rent in advance but I didn't have the money for the last month."

Mitchell went to his counselor at Sierra and explained that he was about to lose his apartment. That counselor secured $400 in emergency funds for Mitchell, which were available to him the next day.

Mitchell said that $400 not only saved his apartment, but also kept him in school. He is in his second year at Sierra now and wants to transfer to American River College eventually where a program in his area of study is available.

"Wow. I would have lost my apartment, I'm pretty sure," he said.

Sonbol Aliabadi, executive director of the Sierra College Foundation, said this is just one of many stories where the foundation's Student Emergency Fund has helped a student stay in school.

She said the fund has been available to students for some time, but over the last three years requests for help have increased substantially. That's why the foundation decided to launch into an effort to raise $250,000 for the Student Emergency Fund this year.

"This small amount of money helps them get through that hump and stay in school because sometimes they get so frazzled and frustrated and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel and may decide they need to drop out for another job just to pay rent," Aliabadi said.

The push to raise money for the Student Emergency Fund comes from professors who have observed students sleeping in their cars in the parking lot or coming into class with holes in their shoes. Other students walk miles to class because they don't have money to put gas in their car.

Those are just a few situations that can be remedied if students reach out to the emergency fund. Other uses for the money can include the cost of text books, car payments or health care.

"We think with this little support they can stay in school and focus on their studies and get through this tough period," Aliabadi said.

The Sierra College Foundation started its fundraising efforts last spring at the Taste of Excellence event, which raised $55,000 for the emergency fund. Now the foundation is continuing to raise money.

A text message campaign between the college and AT&T allows anyone with any cell phone provider to text "Sierra" to 50555 and donate $5 to the Student Emergency Fund. The $5 donation appears on the next phone bill.

Donations can also be made by calling (916) 660-7020 or by mailing a check made out to the Sierra College Foundation at 5000 Rocklin Road, Rocklin, CA, 95677.

Contact Amber Marra at amberm@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Amber_AJNews.