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Sunday, May 16, 2021

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Marilyn Franco ('20) Marilyn Franco ('20)

SDSU Family Responds to COVID-19 Financial Fallout

SDSU’s Division of University Relations and Development led the effort that has raised over $92,000 to help students in economic crisis through ECRT.
By Erik Good

“We want to express tremendous gratitude for the generosity of our donors, who are continuing to support really every aspect of our campus during this difficult time.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, San Diego State University recent journalism graduate Marilyn Franco ('20) wasn’t sure what to do.

As shelter-in-place orders were handed down in California, Franco unfortunately lost her part-time jobs at the San Diego County Library and at a local catering company. Accustomed to finding ways to make ends meet, Franco found herself — with eight weeks left until graduation — with no money for food, rent or other living expenses.  

“I didn’t know what to do,” Franco said. “I really needed financial assistance because I still had my lease here. I tried to talk to the leasing office, but they weren’t as helpful with students.”

Then a professor put her in touch with SDSU’s Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT). Formed in 2015, ECRT offers a lifeline to students in crisis, whether it be immediate food or housing needs or connections to campus and community resources.

Through the ECRT, Franco received two months of rent payments and a Trader Joe’s gift card for groceries. 

“I felt so happy and excited that there was someone actually there to help students,” Franco said. “(ECRT Coordinator) Chelsea Payne really helped me a lot.” 

Support for Franco and other students during the pandemic comes through a campaign organized by University Relations and Development that has raised over $92,500.

This “micro-campaign” reached out to individual donors directly through social media and emails, and as a result, 1,140 alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends have answered the call and generously donated.

“This effort was designed to help our most vulnerable students impacted by the virus,” said URAD Vice President Adrienne Vargas. “We have a lot of students who were already living paycheck to paycheck, and this was designed to help them bridge that gap to a more sustainable situation.”

Janet Evans ('18), a current URAD staff member, decided to give to the campaign once she learned about its mission that focused on basic human needs.

“Everyone deserves an opportunity, and everyone has different levels of need,” Evans said. “For me, when I know there’s a dire immediate need — whether it’s food, clothing or books — anything that helps students feel supported and successful within the SDSU community, I’m all for it.”

Evans describes a “culture of kindness” in the SDSU community. “It’s important for our students to know that there are donors out there to support them and who believe in them.”

Franco agreed. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I did feel alone. My friends weren’t going through similar situations. Chelsea made me feel like there was support, that my school and the program  were here for me.”

The aid from ECRT allowed Franco the breathing room she needed to complete her degree, move back in with her parents in the Sacramento area and start her job search. 

Though still entrenched in the job search, Franco said, “SDSU’s Handshake app is giving me hope. In the end, I’m happy that I chose to become an Aztec and am beyond grateful for the help that ECRT has expressed to me.”

Vargas said the URAD team is proud of the SDSU family that came together quickly during a time of need.

“We want to express tremendous gratitude for the generosity of our donors, who are continuing to support really every aspect of our campus during this difficult time,” she said.

Do you know a student in an immediate food, housing or other crisis who could use help in exploring resources? Request a referral to ECRT for yourself or others on the ECRT home page.

To make a donation to the ECRT program, click here.