Amanda Merz April 1, 2020 at 12:37 PM

SAFE helps college students with emergency assistance

Sacramento State cropped

How many of us have used the term “starving college student” affectionately when reminiscing about college? Those were the days of ramen noodles and, if we were lucky, some broccoli, too.

Recently, I was talking with my fellow board member on the Sacramento Alumni Association, Melissa Kistler Ph.D, about this topic and she shared a story that seems incredibly relevant during this time of COVID-19.

“Some may be able to reflect back on eating ramen as part of the good ol’ days. For me, ramen was a feast, especially during the second semester of my freshman year. I was driving away from my first ever apartment on my way to school in February when another car ‘backended’ my small car and damaged it so that it could not be driven. The car accident set off a chain of events that caused me to lose my job and potentially my apartment. I had few resources and relied on my sisters or the kindness of others to help me through this time. It would have been a logical decision to give up or temporarily quit school in order to get my life in order. No one would have faulted me for that decision. No one but me. To me, school was a basic need. I never wavered from the knowledge that a degree would grant me access to a future that I believed in for myself. However, for an 18-year-old, the struggle was real. Finding a job in order to have food and shelter while trying to be a fulltime student was not easy. Although my situation tried to get the better of me, I had something on my side that cannot not be underestimated.  I had the community I built while at Sac State.”

Much like Dr. Kistler’s story, COVID-19 is setting off a chain of events for many students.  

As college campuses close and students move to remote learning, some students are facing a host of challenges: closed dorms, shuttered food banks and cafeterias, and retail jobs lost.

According to the Los Rios Foundation, “Many of our students are hourly workers and often only one paycheck away from homelessness. They may be making decisions about whether to buy food or pay rent or dealing with unexpected childcare costs as schools close throughout the region.”

Helping students in our region will encourage them to continue to aim high and finish their semester without the worry of where to sleep, what to eat, and how to pay for necessities.

Businesses and organizations are stepping up to help, including SAFE Credit Union. Education is one of SAFE’s pillars of philanthropy, and we quickly mobilized to provide $10,000 in $50 gift cards to distribute among students at Sierra College, the Los Rios Community College District, and CSU Sacramento. The gift cards will help students obtain much-needed food.

I dropped off the gift cards at empty college campuses on a beautiful California day when students normally would be hustling to class or preparing for midterms. However, the new normal of sheltering in place leaves campuses empty and uncertainty abundant.

If you would like to support college students in our region, I have listed three links where you can donate.

To find out more about programs at these three colleges please go to:

Sacramento State:

Los Rios Foundation:

Sierra College:


Amanda Merz

Amanda is the Community Impact Manager for SAFE and is responsible for ensuring that the organization’s mission to give back is fully realized.