Emergency grant program gives WSSU students an extra boost

WSSU senior Thomas Fair presents his research during Scholarship Day. 

Hard work has paid off for Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) graduating senior Thomas Fair IV, who will attend Baylor College of Medicine starting this fall.

But it hasn’t been easy for Fair, one of 10 children and the first in his family to attend college. Without help from a university emergency grant fund, Fair would have struggled to pay for the living costs associated with attending WSSU.

“This type of funding allows students like myself the opportunity to reach opportunities that I may not have had due to a financial strain,” Fair said. “Had I not received this funding, I would have missed on these opportunities.”

The fund, which started in August, provided Fair, a graduate of Forest View High School in Gastonia, with $500 in rental assistance.

Fair, an exercise science major who completed faculty-mentored research on the vascular responses to acidosis and also healthcare disparities as a WSSU student, has received a stipend and full scholarship  to attend a post-baccalaureate research program at Baylor in Houston.

“When I got the acceptance letter from Baylor, I was so happy because it showed all my hard work the last four years had paid off,” Fair said. “It was exciting. There was a sense of relief that I had to know that after graduation, I can turn the next chapter toward pursuing my career.”

Letitia Wall, who administers the program as associate provost, says the emergency fund, supported through gifts to the Winston-Salem State University Foundation, aims to help undergraduate and graduate students who need assistance that cannot be provided through financial aid.

This includes assistance for:

  • Emergency car repairs
  • Imminent eviction due to loss of income
  • Utility shut off due to loss or delay of income
  • Child care

“WSSU has quite a number of underserved students, and many face challenges outside the classroom,” Wall said. “The emergency grant program helps to take the financial hardship out of the equation so students can focus on their studies.”

Wall said the average amount awarded is $360. Since the program began in August, 11 students, including Fair, have received assistance.

$50,000 Gift Expands Program

Starting this summer, the fund will support even more students thanks to the support from a Winston-Salem family. The Matthew and Anna Reilly Cullinan Emergency Grant Fund, which provides up to $1,000, was established in January through a $50,000 gift from the Winston-Salem couple.

"Anna and I believe strongly that we all have a responsibility to help students get to the finish line," said Matthew Cullinan, who had a successful career in higher-education administration at the University of Notre Dame and Wake Forest University.  "Our own families are living proof of the opportunities a college education can provide."

WSSU students who are interested in applying for the emergency grant can request the application form from the Office of the Provost (202 Blair Hall).

On May 18, Fair will become the first in his family to graduate from college, but he says he will make sure he won’t be the last. He also has helped his mom, who is working toward her associate degree.

“By being the first to attend school, I had no one who had prior experience that could help with applying for college or applying for scholarships,” he said. “However, it was a learning experience for me that I am glad I went through and now, when my younger siblings are ready to apply for school, I can be there to help them.”

About the WSSU Foundation
Founded in 1970, the Winston-Salem State University Foundation Inc. is private, non-profit organization that focuses on the long-term needs of the university and enhances the efficiency of its fundraising efforts. For more information, please visit the WSSU Foundation website.

Note: This is one of a series of articles highlighting WSSU's Class of 2018.  

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