Patricia Swonger ’81 vividly remembers the unshakable sense of community that Conn gave her when she was a student facing significant personal hardships.
A week after she arrived on campus in 1977, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer—a devastating challenge that followed her throughout her next four years at the College. Now, Swonger is one of the people contributing to the College’s Student Emergency Fund that has now been expanded to address a variety of issues Conn students are confronting as the result of the global response to the COVID-19 virus.
“I was a financial aid student at Connecticut College when I was there,” Swonger said. “Had it not been for the support I received from the Connecticut College community, I doubt I would have been able to graduate from college.
“Conn is very near and dear to my heart, and I want to pay it forward. The College was there for me, and it's my job to be there for it now,” she added.
Swonger was one of a large group of Conn alumni who stepped up to help after President Katherine Bergeron announced on March 11 that in order to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading on campus, the College would move to remote modes of instruction. Because of this change, students needed to pack up their belongings and return home in order to continue their classes remotely.
The Emergency Fund has offered immediate support to help with travel, housing, lost wages from campus jobs and other unexpected hardships that have arisen from the pandemic. So far, the fund has helped dozens of students with domestic and international flights around the world, including to Ghana, China, Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela and India, among others. Other areas of financial assistance include ground transportation, moving and shipping expenses, computer and internet access, and more.
“The generous donations to the Student Emergency Fund at this challenging time capture the true spirit of our Camel Community,” said Dean of the College Jefferson Singer. “Alumni, parents, family members, faculty, staff and friends of the College have demonstrated an outpouring of love for our students facing economic struggles due to the outbreak. We are deeply grateful for this show of support.”
Bergeron commented, “The incredible outpouring of interest from alumni and other friends of the College shows the ongoing generosity and engagement of the Conn community. Alumni across all class years were asking what they can do to help.”
In fact, the Emergency Fund effort raised nearly $45,000 dollars in a matter of days from more than one hundred individual donors. As of the end of May, the fund is now more than $95,000 dollars with contributions from more than 200 donors. Most of the fund, Bergeron added, has already been assigned to address student needs.
“When I attended Conn, my family lived overseas in Nepal,” said Rachel Peniston ’11. “Had something like this occurred during my four years, I would have not known where I could go. Thank you for setting up this fund to help students with limited options at a critical moment like this.”
If you would like to donate to the Student Emergency Fund, please visit the online giving page.