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STANFORD--The Guiding Concilio, the governing body of El Centro Chicano, has approved a plan to establish an emergency fund for Chicano/Latino students at Stanford. Its purpose is to make possible immediate small-loan assistance to students facing financial crises or unexpected need.
Frances Morales, assistant dean of students and director of El Centro Chicano, proposed the idea to the council, which set a target of $5,000 for the fund. Morales said that increasing numbers of Mexican American students, both graduate and undergraduate, have come to her office in recent years with short-term financial problems and a need for "survival" money.
Morales attributed the increased money problems only partly to the greater unemployment and reduced family incomes stemming from the U.S. recession.
"We have more students now who are the first members of their families ever to go to college. Some of the students we see at El Centro have parents who are migrant workers living at poverty level," she said, "so there is no family help to draw on for unexpected expenses, such as a dental emergency, for instance. Students like that who come to us at the center with financial crises typically have already exhausted university resources, and we have to be their family."
The American Indian emergency fund served as a model for the Chicano/Latino fund, Morales said. The Native American fund was established in 1974 as a revolving fund, with students paying back interest-free emergency loans as and when they are able.
"The fund has made a real difference to a lot of Native students in the 20 years of its existence," said Denni Woodward, assistant director of the American Indian Program. "In the last 10 years especially, we've had to draw on it for that little bit of extra help that can change outcomes for some of our students."
The initial money for the Chicano/Latino fund has come from personal contributions by Ray Bacchetti, former vice president for planning and management at the university; Stanford trustees Michael Perez, Class of '87, and Luis Nogales, JD '69; and Ben Olguin, a newly appointed faculty member at Cornell University who finished his doctoral dissertation this summer in Stanford's Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
It was at Olguin's prompting that Morales proposed that El Centro's Guiding Concilio establish an emergency fund. As a graduate student from a low-income Texas family, he said, he repeatedly experienced financial crises - some large, like hospitalization after an accident in Mexico City, and some small, like periodically running out of money for groceries -- that distracted him from his studies and
sometimes compelled him to borrow from friends whose resources often were not much more ample than his.
"I've known students to drop out of school altogether because of financial strain and inability to meet expenses and money worries - their own and those of their families," Olguin said. "The emergency fund is badly needed; I'm glad it's now being established, and I hope it will always be available to students who need it."
The center's annually elected council, together with Morales and Chris Gonzalez-Clarke, assistant director of El Centro, will administer the fund. The fund total has not yet reached the $5,000 goal that the Guiding Concilio set for start-up contributions. Morales said the council hopes to reach its dollar objective before the end of the next academic year.
Contributions can be made to Stanford University Account 5MVC-619 and mailed to Chris Gonzalez-Clarke at El Centro Chicano, Building 590, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305- 3044.
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