By Buff Buffkin, President, and Faith Sandler, Executive Director
When we set out to celebrate a centennial and adopted the tagline, “100 Years and Counting”, we were planning to count the mounting achievements of The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and to point our way toward a promising future. Just three months into our 100th year, we are looking back to count the crises the organization has previously overcome, by putting the needs of the community and the support of students first.
…pogroms, the rise of the Third Reich, refugees arriving in St. Louis in great need (1920-1950)
…the Great Depression (1929-1940)
…World War II (1939-1945)
…the struggle for civil rights (1950-1970)
…“ethnic cleansing” in the Balkan nations, unspeakable trauma, new immigrants (1990-2000)
…the Great Recession (2008)
…COVID-19, coronavirus (2020)
The magnitude and multiple effects of COVID-19 on the community of The Scholarship Foundation are evolving and still unknown. What we do know, thanks to those who came before us, is that our priorities remain clearly on current and future students who were already experiencing significant financial need BEFORE the virus hit. In prior crises, we know our foremothers responded with flexibility, generosity, and compassion. We intend to do the same.
Our founder, Meta Bettman wrote “The Scholarship Foundation has never been static. We have changed our methods as conditions warranted and have always remained progressive and open-minded.” We are living out those words right now.
Our students remain our first and highest priority, but how we serve and support our students — and each other — has and will continue to change in the weeks ahead. Student-related measures in immediate effect are:
- Making microgrants to current Scholarship Foundation students experiencing emergency financial needs (food, shelter, transportation, internet access) as a result of the pandemic and campus closures. See Important Info for Students Whose Campuses are Closing and Trauma, Pandemic, and Community Impact.
- Extending application deadlines and waiving some document requirements, especially those dependent upon schools that are closed (official transcripts, teacher or counselor recommendations).
- Providing amnesty on interest-free loan repayments through May 15, without need for documentation or pre-approval, in addition to maintaining ongoing processes for requesting longer-term deferments or payment reductions.
- Continuing our commitment to service student loans without interest or fees during this difficult time and throughout repayment.
- Transitioning all paid student internships to project-based remote work.
Our focus is squarely on the community at this and every time, and that includes assuring that our staff, board, volunteers, students, and contributors are all as safe and assured as possible. To that end, we have:
- Closed the office to the public and instituted remote work procedures, allowing minimal access to the office for key employees only and requiring all physical distancing protocols be observed.
- Suspended hiring.
- Transitioned all meetings of the board and its committees to digital and online formats.
- Instituted new online formats for staff meetings and communications, as well as remote procedures for reviewing, approving, and disbursing emergency funds for students.
- Communicated with all audiences and in multiple formats.
- Escalated contingency planning under various health and economic scenarios that our community may face.
If you are receiving this message, you are a member of The Scholarship Foundation community and we are wishing you and your loved ones safety and well being as we get through the coming months. We are preparing for what is to come and will be sure you are informed as important changes arise. Now, or as thoughts occur to you, please do not hesitate to be in touch with one or both of us.