September 7, 2017 | Katherine Adams
After Tropical Storm Harvey left Houston, representatives from numerous University of Houston-Clear Lake organizations and campus offices met to discuss ways to help students immersed in stress and coping with losses incurred by floodwaters. The “Hawks Helping Hawks” Sept. 6 event was quickly organized to collect canned goods, clothing, and school supplies to help students including Alexia Flores, a junior from Houston who, like many other students, faculty and staff, was flooded out of her childhood home.
“My grandfather's house flooded over five feet,” Flores said. “We lost everything. Although I wasn't living there at the time, I grew up in that home. He had just finished redoing the entire house the day before this happened, so it’s just heartbreaking.”
Members of UHCL’s Student Government Association, Orientation and New Student Programs, Student Life, Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and University Advancement set up tables in Atrium II of the Bayou Building and took donations to target the needs of flooded-out Hawks. “It’s really comforting to see the university and all these student services come together,” Flores said.
“It doesn’t solve everything, but it helps to see that people are so willing to help and especially that the Dean of Students, David Rachita, has been so willing to take a personal interest in each student who is going through this,” she said.
“We have created a fund called #UHCLStrong and we are taking donations to help students experiencing a financial hardship due to the flood,” Rachita said.
“Students can fill out the Financial Aid Disaster Consideration form and other appropriate needed forms and both the Financial Aid and Dean of Students offices will consider the request, but funds are limited and decisions will be made in the order received and based on the severity of the need.”
Rachita said that students can receive up to $500 of the Hawk Emergency Fund and can use those funds as they see fit.
Senior Makayla Ellis, a student associate for Student Organizations and Activities in the Student Life Office, said that it was important to collect these items for UHCL students in need. “Students should know that their school is thinking of them and wants to help them find ways to stay here. There are some people who are wondering if they can even come back to school, and if not having these things is what’s stopping them, then we are here to help,” she said.
Rachita said the need was so great, it was overwhelming. “But I am stunned at how simple and humble most of the requests have been. These students have lost everything and many are only asking for school supplies; pens, notebooks, backpack or even a cheap laptop.”
He added that students need so much more, but many are only asking for those things that can help them to continue being a student. “What they really need is a car, a new place to live, and funds to support their families,” he said.
One student, said Rachita, simply asked for plastic bins to store her clean clothes in her flooded house. “The needs are great, but what is being asked for is so simple. If a plastic bin or a handful of pens is going to give a person hope, then goodness, let’s fill a bunch of bins with a bunch of pens,” he said.
For more information about how to donate or to get information about the #UHCLStrong fund, visit www.uhcl.edu/harvey-resources-faqs.