The Student Assistance Fund for Eastern (SAFE) launched in 2020 with a vision to help Colonels in need during crises. Whether a global pandemic, natural disaster or unexpected emergency, the EKU community stands ready to help students during tumultuous times in their lives.
When the devastating flood hit Eastern Kentucky last summer, senior Emily Stacy and her family lost their house and most of their belongings just a few days before she was due to begin her third semester of nursing classes.
“I live with my grandparents, and they’ve always pushed me to go chase my dreams and do whatever I need to do to get my education. They were very supportive in the fact that I was going to go back to school, and that they were fine. They’d have it under control,” Stacy said. “But it was just the thought of, ‘How am I going to go back to school if I don’t have any of the things that I need?’ I didn’t have any bedding, I didn’t really have any clothes... my computer, stethoscope, scrubs... I didn’t have anything. It’s stressful enough coming into a new semester, trying to get your routine down, get everything into place, get moved in so you know where everything is. I didn’t have anything; everything was just gone. It was like a clean slate.”
Two days after the flood, Stacy received text messages from EKU about the SAFE program. If any students were affected by the flooding in Eastern Kentucky, the messages said to respond so EKU could help them return to campus.
The SAFE program allowed Stacy to come back to school and get all of the supplies she needed for her classes, residence hall and basic necessities. The fund also helped provide her family with basic supplies while they started the process of rebuilding their home.
“The support was coming from all over the place. I didn’t even know it at the time. When I was at home, I didn’t know what they were all doing here to help me. It was kind of overwhelming all the support that I had,” Stacy said.
Stacy is due to graduate in Spring of 2024, and she plans on staying in Kentucky to give back to the community that gave so much to her during a time of trial and tribulation.
“I’m really passionate about healthcare, specifically healthcare in Eastern Kentucky. That’s an area that needs people to be passionate about it the most, and it’s the community that gave so much to me during the flooding,” she said.
Recognizing the vast impact the SAFE program had in her life, Stacy advocates for the fund and shared her story with legislators and Foundation Board members. “It was a terrible situation, but I’ve met a lot of great people, and I’ve found out there are so many people in my corner that I didn’t even know until the flood happened,” she said.
SAFE also helps students during other disasters and unexpected emergencies, like the tornadoes that devastated parts of Western Kentucky in December 2021.
Junior Nathan Neal’s family home suffered immense damage after a tornado touched down in his neighborhood and tore through his street.
Neal, an engineering technology management major, was unable to work due to his home’s damage from the tornado. Through the SAFE program, Neal was able to come back to campus and have the funds he needed to stay comfortable throughout the semester.
“I got back to my normal life. I wasn’t in such a tough position to where I would need to work all throughout the semester. I had some free time, got to work on my grades, got my grades up and really just got involved on campus. I feel like it allowed me to have some freedom, some happiness,” Neal said.
Thanks to the generosity of Colonels from around the Commonwealth and country, students who are faced with challenging times are able to stay and receive their education due to the SAFE program. SAFE prioritizes students’ needs to meet them where they are and ease the burden of immediate, essential expenses in the wake of crises.
“Sometimes our students experience unimaginable circumstances that would otherwise derail their dream of a college degree. The SAFE program provides just-in-time support for students to keep their dream alive,” said Dr. Lara Vance, dean of students.
Learn more about the Student Assistance Fund for Eastern.