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Maverick Relief Fund makes immediate impact for the future

Community donations work to keep hundreds of students in college

CMU student Tiana Manera wasn't sure what the future held for her education as COVID-19 impacted her university life as well as life in her home state of Hawaii. Her family was impacted in a similar way as many around the globe as the pandemic reached deeper and deeper into the global experience. As worries mounted for Tiana and her mother Cindra, the Colorado Mesa University Foundation launched the Maverick Relief Fund on April 10.

The fund was initiated even though stock markets observed their worst week since the Great Depression and analysts were predicting unprecedented unemployment and economic hardship in the weeks and months ahead. The fund was created despite uncertainty because the Foundation continued hearing stories about students forced to consider leaving CMU due to financial stress.

"With the economic conditions we were unsure about the outcome, but knew that standing by and doing nothing wasn't an option. President Foster encouraged us to pursue supporting these students with a belief that generosity would overcome fear," said CMU Foundation CEO Liz Meyer. "That has certainly happened."

By March 14, CMU learned more than 250 Mavericks were at risk of having to give up on their education journeys due to hardship. That's when donations began pouring in from the community. One source of generosity making this fund available included Wells Fargo. The company's Vice President of Community Affairs Kelly Donovan was one of the first to reach out and inquire how they could support COVID-19 relief efforts. 

"Wells Fargo is committed to supporting our communities during this crisis," said Donovan. "These students are the future. They will be the next generation of nurses, doctors, bankers, tellers, law enforcement professionals and more. We want to support their immediate needs today for a strong community tomorrow."

As of June 30, generosity from 140 supporters provided nearly $135,000 in relief funds for CMU students impacted by COVID-19. CMU was able to deploy these funds directly to more than 142 students.

CMU's Director of Integrated Services and Advising, Anna Nichols, has been working to assess the needs of each individual student and match them with the most appropriate form of aid.

"The Maverick Relief Fund is quickly becoming one of our most important tools to keep these students in school, and we are hugely appreciative to the community for the support," said Nichols.

CMU President Tim Foster believes the connection between supporting students and having a vibrant community is easy to identify. He noted that 120 CMU and Western Colorado Community College student volunteers stepped forward during the crisis to work at COVID testing centers, call centers and to make thousands of masks and face shields.

"Today's students representing future responders was best illustrated by the fact that on April 21 CMU graduated 48 nurses who immediately joined the ranks of Colorado healthcare providers in fighting the disease," said Foster. "Community support for the Maverick Relief Fund reveals the community understands this connection."

Tiana Manera understands the connection too. 

"The Maverick Relief scholarship has really benefited my family," said Manera. "It not only helped pay for my education, but has really helped support my family during this time of need. I would like to thank all who have contributed to make this fund possible. Words can't express how thankful I am." 

CMU student Tiana Manera

Community supporters of CMU interested in sponsoring a student though the Maverick Relief Fund are encouraged to reach out to the CMU Foundation today.

"We are not going to give up on students no matter how tough times get," said Foster. "I'd hate to think about where the world would be without today's army of skilled professionals and specialists out there responding to the virus today. These CMU students are the responders of tomorrow."


Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 22, 2020 and was amended on July 6, 2020 to reflect updated donation numbers and other stats. 


Written by David Ludlam