It is an investment in our future.

That’s the message from The San Diego Foundation and the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, which awarded Southwestern College a total of $135,000 for students struggling with the coronavirus pandemic’s impacts. Combined with funding from the federal CARES Act and other resources, Southwestern College has distributed new Chromebooks and refurbished laptops to more than 1,000 students who were on the other side of the digital divide when all classes moved online.

Some grant money also went to the Southwestern College Cares Emergency Fund to help students in need pay for rent, food or utility bills.

“Donations like these are having a huge impact on our students, but just as important, donations like these are having a huge impact on our region,” said Patricia Bartow, who helped the Southwestern Community College District’s Jag Kitchen Food Pantry and who serves as Director of Operations at the Higher Education Center in San Ysidro.

Southwestern College is the largest higher education system in South County with an annual enrollment of more than 28,000 students from diverse backgrounds and ages – all looking to improve their job prospects and contribute to the economy. According to its annual fact book, Hispanic San Diegans make up more than 65% of student enrollment, with a mix of individuals attending full-time and part-time. In total, past and present students of Southwestern College generate $763.6 million in added income for the region annually.

But too many Southwestern College students are struggling financially and face food and housing insecurity; nearly 60 percent are receiving some form of financial aid. And many students would have dropped out of school when the campus closed and transitioned classes online had it not been for the COVID-19 Community Response Fund grant.

Just ask Christian Sanchez. The 2019-20 Associated Student Organization president, Sanchez and his wife, who also is a student, were sharing a single desktop computer with their five children, who range in age from 4 to 18. “When the schools went online, everyone went online, so it was an untenable situation,” Sanchez said. “Things were looking pretty bleak. Picking up a laptop from the college helped motivate me. Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

In fact, Sanchez graduates with an associate degree in business this fall and is planning to transfer to a four-year college or university to earn an English degree as he continues his journey toward a career as an English professor and perhaps politics.

The San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund is administered by The San Diego Foundation and has distributed more than $24 million in grants to schools and nonprofits throughout the region since the coronavirus crisis began. Nationwide, more than 500 community foundations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia have created relief funds to support those affected by COVID-19, raising $1 billion as of June 30.

“I was not expecting this at all and was surprised, really,” said Ulyssa Easley, a student who picked up a desktop computer during a recent giveaway at the Chula Vista campus. “Without access to a computer it would be hard for me to link to classes via Zoom. I could use my phone, but it’s just not the same.”

Help San Diego students continue their education by donating today.