Torchlight | Fall 2015

Happy Feat

Student fundraising helps fellow students

Dance Marathon

Dance Marathon participants and volunteers show the amount raised at an event to benefit the Student Emergency Grant Fund. 

Jessica Hernandez found herself in a tight spot after her mom was in a car accident during the second week of the semester. Panicked and afraid, Hernandez says everything was moving so quickly. She needed help to make her on-campus housing payments.

She found it with the Student Emergency Grant Fund.

“With my mom unable to contribute, I needed support to live and eat,” she says. “I would’ve been lost and in debt. It would’ve been stressful and affected my academics.”

Also known as the Hornet Proud Fund, the emergency grant supports undergraduate students who experience a financial crisis or unanticipated expenses, causing short-term financial hardship that requires immediate attention to remain in school.

“It’s really looking at those who have exhausted other resources and used every option financial aid has presented to them,” says Jennifer Barber, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving. “There’s just no other way without this they can continue their studies.”

Hernandez, a biological sciences major and future pediatrician, is one of 11 fund recipients since the program began. The grants are made to reimburse students for actual expenses, with a maximum of $1,500 each.

The idea for the fund was hatched by members in the Student Advancement Council, which helps build a culture of philanthropy on campus. Barber says the goal is to educate students on the importance and impact of philanthropy and how they can contribute before graduation.

“It is intended to build camaraderie among our peers,” says Student Advancement Council leader Denise Barajas, Class of 2017. “It’s not just helping one another financially.”

The psychology and journalism major says the Student Advancement Council plans year-round for the grant’s primary fundraiser, the Homecoming weekend Dance Marathon.

“We do our best to promote the event and its cause. We had numerous clubs and campus entities participate this year to show students we are tackling this issue together,” says Barajas.

Along with the Dance Marathon, Barber says the Alumni Association and Student Advancement Council have publicized the fund through campaigns such as Giving Tuesday and the Big Day of Giving. It was also the beneficiary of the silent auction at Vintage ’47, the University’s food and wine event. Additionally, President Nelsen has included it among the initiatives supported by the President’s Circle giving society.

Although the fund’s theme is students helping students, it’s a community-wide effort.

Dance Marathon

President Robert Nelsen gets a bird’s eye view of the Dance Marathon from the longest teeter-totter in the world.

“Our support comes from anyone who can empathize with a struggling college student,” says Barajas. “We’ve been backed by The University Foundation at Sacramento State Board of Directors for two years through a $5,000 matching grant. Last year, we collected $1,000 from numerous Rotarians by the Rotaract Club on campus.” 

To date, nearly $37,000 has been raised for the Student Emergency Grant Fund. The extra support doesn’t go unnoticed.

“It makes a huge positive statement to the students when alumni and community members step forward and support a cause they believe in,” says Barber.

Hernandez adds, “It’s great to know that people your age or older have your back. They may not know you or your story, but they’re willing to lend a hand.”

You, too, can support students in need. To contribute to the Student Emergency Grant Fund, visit