Rose’s* life was moving along as planned. Graduate from Cal State Long Beach in the spring, move into a new apartment, get married in June and continue teaching music to children at a local preschool.
As plans go, it seemed unshakable.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Rose found herself struggling to finish school and to find a place to live. Her living situation held the key to the rest. She thought that if she could find a quiet, safe place to study and sleep, she could accomplish the rest.
After Rose’s mother and siblings moved from San Gabriel to Florida two weeks before the fall semester, she moved in with her 73-year-old grandmother in Azusa. Family issues, coupled with the safer-at-home orders, caused tension between the two and Rose’s grandmother eventually asked her to leave.
Without a place to go, Rose often spent nights at her teaching job or slept in her car. Her schoolwork began to suffer, and she realized she needed help. She had seen on the university social media feeds about the Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program, which helps students in need.
“I knew that I needed help and I knew it wasn’t going to be a good semester if I didn’t do something,” Rose said. “So, I reached out. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew if I could just get help with housing or a scholarship that they were giving, maybe I could go in the right direction.”
The Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program recently benefited from a fundraiser that received more than $260,000 in donations for students in need.
Overall, the CSULB Student Emergency Fund raised $161,357, and donations were matched dollar-for-dollar up to the campaign's $100,000 goal, thanks to a generous donor. Those funds have helped hundreds of students, such as Rose, who received a $500 grant that she could use for food, rent and essential needs.
Since March, the Student Emergency Fund has provided students with 289 grants for a total of $132,036, more than half the money raised, according to Kenneth Kelly, director of the Basic Needs program.
Rose also requested and received emergency housing at the Hillside dorms and meal assistance, where she received 15 meals on her student ID card to use at the dining halls. In addition, she received $500 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act disbursement.
And she was granted a housing extension through Basic Needs’ partnership with Jovenes, a nonprofit that provides solutions for young adults who will be transitioning to long-term housing. The dorm room gave Rose a place to study, practice piano and continue to plan for her future.
“I feel they (Basic Needs staff) were fighting for me to get out of the situation. … It’s been more than enough. I didn’t expect the school to come through like this, in ways that my own family hasn’t,” she said.
Before COVID-19 hit, Rose was on track to complete the final 16 units she needed to graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music with a minor in child development. With her uncertain living arrangement, she dropped two classes and will now graduate in Fall 2020.
I definitely jumped on the housing because I knew I could practice (piano) and not be in people’s way, and I actually have a bed.
“This semester definitely would have been a nightmare without this, and I don’t believe I would have been able to pass my proficiency exam. I did. Hallelujah?" she said.
Rose said she and her fiance are continuing with plans for their small June wedding that will take place in front of immediate family members only. They will be married by a father of one of her music students, who is a pastor.
Afterward, she is planning on resuming teaching music to preschoolers, even if it’s on Zoom.
“I have a huge passion for very young children. I think it’s just magical because they are so receptive,” Rose said. “My philosophy is that music, just like food, clothing and language, is essential. A lot of the arts have been taken out (of educational curriculum) that people don’t remember that music was an integral part of your education.”
* The identities of those receiving assistance are protected, therefore all students are identified by a pseudonym.