Organization aims to give aid to needy Sooners
Life happens, and University College freshman Emma Lindgren learned this last semester when her mother died after a three-year fight with cancer.
Rebekah Cornwell, The Oklahoma Daily
“The last thing I wanted to worry about on top of being a student, being involved on campus activities and simply wanting to be a teenager was finances,” Lindgren said.
To help students in situations similar to hers, Lindgren joined the Sooners Helping Sooners executive committee, a student-led initiative to raise money for students in emergency situations.
“There are so many times when a student has some sort of life event that you cannot control and just seems to happen,” organization co-chairwoman Elizabeth Huggins said. “We want every student to have the opportunity to graduate and finish their academic careers. Some circumstances beyond your control shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goals.”
Sooners Helping Sooners began in February after Huggins and co-chairman Corbin Carter attended a Big 12 conference and learned about a similar model at Kansas State University, Huggins said.
There was no reason the program wouldn’t succeed here because OU fosters a strong sense of community, she said.
A committee of an equal number of students and faculty will evaluate the applications and interview applicants to assess their level of need, Huggins said. The group has not reached that stage yet, and it does not know exactly how they will require verification of need, but they will most likely ask for receipts or documentation.
Group adviser and Student Life director Kristen Partridge has met with students in need of financial support for special circumstances every semester, Huggins said.
One memorable case was the friend of an international student who approached Partridge because her friend had a toothache but could not afford surgery, she said. The student was in so much pain she couldn’t attend classes or focus on schoolwork, Partridge said.
Partridge asked staff members to write checks and raised the money to pay for the student’s eventual double root canal, Huggins said.
“The staff was willing to give whatever they can,” Huggins said. “That really inspired us to actually make this happen. It is inspiring they would give up money that in no way benefits them.”
The OU Financial Aid Services office can only look at and help with the long-term pictures, Huggins said. In cases such as emergency surgeries, sick parents, apartment fires and others, students don’t have options.
“I know some things don’t come up six months in advance, so the goal is to reach beyond the realms of financial aid and share the love and compassion from students...,” Huggins said.
OU President David Boren has backed and approved the group, according to the group’s Facebook page. A donation account has been set up through the OU Foundation. All student donations go to help students.
Currently the group is reaching out to student organizations for donations and support, Huggins said. The group has secured corporate sponsorships for all operational costs, and the OU Alumni Association allocated $50,000.
Any student who donates at least $15 will receive a T-shirt with the gift, Huggins said.
Students can nominate themselves or a friend online, as well as donate online or at tabling locations in the Oklahoma Memorial Union for the next week, Huggins said.
“We want it to be the kind of program that lasts forever because there are always going to be OU students that need help,” she said. “We want to build the foundation necessary for that to happen, and it comes from spreading awareness and showing students this is pure love and a way to participate in pure love and compassion.”