Colleges aid students hit by Sandy

Coastal community colleges and their students continue to struggle after Hurricane Sandy, reports Community College Times.

Ocean County College (OCC) in New Jersey shut down for two weeks, due to loss of power.  Since reopening, professors have tried to help students catch up with schoolwork.

“The college has made everyone feel very warm and welcome,” said Thomas Kosenski, whose home was flooded.

. . .  OCC set up a relief fund that raised $15,000. Those funds are going toward gas cards and money for food and school supplies to ensure that students and staff can continue at OCC.

. . . staff can apply for a one-year emergency loan to help cover expenses until they receive insurance payments.

For students who lost textbooks in the storm, the college’s bookstore was able to arrange loaner books through the publishers.

At Thanksgiving, an area chef hosted dinner for displaced faculty, staff and students.

Atlantic Cape Community College (ACCC), also in New Jersey, started a relief fund for students, using social networking. Donations have come from Gloucester County College (New Jersey), Wayne Community College (North Carolina) and Portland Community College (Oregon).

“The response was great and gratifying and immediate,” said Patricia Gentile, a dean at ACCC.

Some 425 students have applied for help from the fund, which now stands at $40,000.  Monica Tejeda, who’s working on an associate degree in human services, is one of them. Her basement apartment was flooded, destroying her computer and textbooks.  FEMA put Tejeda and her husband in a hotel.

Faculty has been lenient with assignments, Tejeda said, but she’s finding it “hard to focus.”

“How do you concentrate on writing a paper when you’re dealing with so much?” she asked.

Tejeda helps the older evacuees at the hotel, preparing for what she hopes will be a new career working with the elderly.

Students are trying to finish the semester, but community colleges aren’t sure how many will register for spring. So far, the numbers are down.