Emergency Fund Provides Grants to Pacific Students

When Fernando Lira ’21 started working to support the Pacific University Student Emergency Fund, he didn’t imagine he would actually use it.

As President of the Undergraduate Student Senate, Lira was focused on coordinating support for his fellow students amid the COVID-19 pandemic that temporarily closed Pacific’s campuses this spring.

“When all this happened, I was just really trying to navigate what I was going to do. I was really concerned about the rest of the student population and the people I represent,” Lira said. Fernando Lira '21 on a beach

Led by Lira, the Undergraduate Student Senate voted to allocate $20,000 from its budget, collected from student fees for events and activities, to the Pacific University Student Emergency Fund — the first of several internal transfers to the emergency fund. 

“We really thought that this would be an awesome, awesome way to contribute back to our student population and our community,” Lira said.

“My mom always told me when I was a young kid, no matter who needs help, you help them. And that was my mentality at the moment – I need to help my community, my student population.”

In April, Lira returned to his home in Brookings, Ore. on the coast just north of the California border, Brookings is a small community with a population that skews towards a 65-and-older demographic. 

Lira’s parents own and run a small Mexican restaurant, with help from Lira’s aunt and uncle, his brother, and even Lira himself. A finance and marketing major at Pacific, Lira helped his father with the restaurant’s bookkeeping, even while away at college.

With the stay-at-home order, business at the restaurant dried up and Lira and his family started looking at ways to cut costs, trying to figure out how they would manage and survive this crisis.  

Lira knew he needed to help his family but questioned whether it would be appropriate, as Undergraduate Student Senate president, to apply for the Student Emergency Fund. 

“I didn’t want to be greedy, I didn’t want to be anything of that nature, but we need something. It’s not even in terms of the restaurant paying bills, I’m talking about more personal things, like the phone bill. And food, right? Things that I needed as well, for me. Essential items that I needed in order to continue to thrive,” Lira said.

After speaking with several mentors at the university who urged him to apply, Lira submitted an application for an emergency grant. 

“I don’t need much, right?” Lira said. “I don’t really need much. I just want to be able to help my family.”

Ultimately, Lira received an emergency grant to help his family weather the pandemic. “It was extremely awesome,” Lira said.

Restrictions in Brookings have started lifting as the county moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening, and the Lira family’s restaurant has been able to open back up. “We’re back open for business,” said Lira. “Things are moving along and we are tons better.”

Lira continues to live at home this summer, but is working remotely in an internship with AmeriCorps. He’ll return to Pacific this fall as a senior, on track to be among the first in his family, along with his brother, to graduate from college. Post-graduation, Lira plans to pursue either an MBA in finance or marketing, or a master’s in organizational leadership and business management.

Lira is just one among many Pacific students who has received support from the Student Emergency Fund. The extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic has created roadblocks to learning for many Pacific students. But the pandemic has also demonstrated the generosity and resilience of the Boxer family to come together to support our students, like Lira, in this great time of need. 

Since its creation, the Student Emergency Fund has received just under $131,000 from 485 donors. In addition to the internal transfer from the Undergraduate Student Senate, the fund also received transfers from the Professional Student Senate, the Residence Hall Association, the College of Health Professions Excellence Fund, the Boxer ‘Ohana Golf Tournament, and the National Optometric Student Association at Pacific University.

So far, the university has received 259 applications for over $180,000 in requested need from both graduate and undergraduate students. The majority of the students’ need has been for living expenses including rent, food, and utilities — about 80% of all the requests. Another 10% of requests were for technology needs, including computers and wi-fi to assist with the transition to online classes. The remaining requests included help with transportation, medical costs, and childcare.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous support we have received and continue to receive from the Pacific community for our students in need,” said Mandi Montplaisir, Pacific’s director of leadership annual giving.

“Every gift to the Pacific University Student Emergency Fund goes to a student in need. We know hardships will continue to arise for our students in the upcoming months, and we want to be able to respond to their applications for urgent support. With your help, we hope to see the fund keep growing to serve even more of our students.”


Wednesday, July 15, 2020