Community Colleges Offer Aid For Haiti, Comfort Students Desperately Waiting For News

Jan 18, 2010, 08:00 ET from American Association of Community Colleges

The College Community Responds to Tragedy with Support & Fundraising

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the scope of the tragic disaster in Haiti becomes more apparent by the hour, many of America's community colleges are organizing fundraising drives and offering support for Haitian-born students who are anxiously waiting to find out if their families have survived this week's earthquake.

At community colleges around the country, other students are anxiously waiting for news about their families. Student Josue "Josh" Myrtil, 24, one of three students from Haiti attending Scott Community College in Davenport, Iowa, as part of a two-year exchange program, is one of them. He told the Quad-City Times on Wednesday, "We cannot talk to anyone. We don't know anything."

Five teachers from Haiti who were visiting Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. were in a college classroom during the earthquake. One teacher has received word that her family is unharmed, but the others continue to wait for news about their families.

"Many of our member colleges are reaching out to offer support to students who are deeply concerned about their families in Haiti and desperately waiting for news," said Dr. George R. Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

A support group for students affected by the earthquake in Haiti has been set up by the Student Services program at Middlesex Community College in Mass. At Valencia Community College in Fla., the Haitian Student Club gathered for support and prayer this week.

Some colleges are also waiting for information about students and employees who were in Haiti at the time of the disaster. Two students and two teachers from Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave, Va., survived the earthquake and are unharmed. They were able to fly out of Haiti today to Santo Domingo and are making their way back to the United States.

Fellow students, teachers, faculty, and administrators can offer support for people who are coping with a traumatic event, notes Boggs. "Understandably, academics are not first and foremost on the minds for people who are waiting to find out if their families survived a tragedy of this magnitude," said Boggs.

Asking what you can do to support and help the student is important, said Boggs. "Reach out to the student and ask if there is something you can do to help. It might be as simple as providing a meal, offering an extension on a classroom assignment, helping the student search for information about a missing loved one, or assisting with childcare," said Boggs. "It's important that students who are dealing with a traumatic event like this not feel alone, and know that others from the college community are standing beside them."

One way many colleges and students are demonstrating their concern for Haiti is by raising funds for a reputable aid organization, such as the American Red Cross, notes Boggs. A list of organizations is available online.

Community colleges are responding in many ways:

  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (N.C.), is conducting a "dollar drive" today and encouraging staff, faculty and students to donate a dollar to support the American Red Cross and its relief efforts in Haiti.
  • Eastfield College (Texas), located in Mesquite and part of the Dallas Community College District, is holding a collection drive for toiletry items next week.
  • LaGuardia Community College (N.Y.) is collecting funds to help the people of Haiti through its LaGuardia Disaster Relief Fund and has partnerships with two local organizations with a history of relief work in Haiti.A three-day campus fundraising drive will begin Jan. 19.
  • Rockland Community College (N.Y.) serves a community where at least 4% of the population is Haitian and at least 12,000 people are of Haitian descent. The college is working with several community aid organizations. The campus Fun & Learn Child Development Center is serving as a drop off point for relief supplies that will be taken by helicopter to Haiti. They are collecting non-perishable food, clothing, water, camping supplies, flashlights, diapers, baby formula, tents, blankets, toiletries, and medical supplies.
  • Savannah Technical College (Ga.) ESL students have launched a fund drive to support Haitian relief efforts in the wake of this week's earthquake. The students are collecting money for Doctors Without Borders to support the organization's work in Haiti.
  • At Volunteer State Community College (Tenn.), the Phi Theta Kappa chapter is challenging every student, staff member, and faculty member to donate at least $1 to the American Red Cross and efforts for Haiti relief. The chapter is collecting funds on campus.

For 89 years, the AACC has been the leading advocate for the nation's community colleges, which currently number more than 1,173 and serve close to 12 million students annually. Its membership comprises 90% of all public two-year colleges -- the largest, most accessible, most diverse sector of U.S. higher education. As institutions committed to access, community service and lifelong learning, community colleges have long-focused on the needs of adults who are already in the workforce, many of whom are seeking new skills and knowledge for changes in their lives and careers.  To learn more about the AACC and its member colleges, visit

SOURCE American Association of Community Colleges