LaGuardia Community College embarks on ambitious fundraiser to help in COVID recovery

LaGuardia Community College is launching an ambitious fundraising campaign to help more students like Sabiha Farheen get back on track after the pandemic through higher education. (Photo courtesy of LaGuardia Community College)

LaGuardia Community College has launched a $15 million fundraising campaign to help New Yorkers who lost their jobs or faced other hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic get back on track through higher education. LaGuardia’s Tomorrow Campaign will help more New Yorkers get the training they desperately want to pursue new jobs or upskill to advance in their current positions.

The Tomorrow Campaign is galvanized by an anonymous donor who pledged $5 million, which will be the Long Island City-based college’s largest donation to date if LaGuardia raises $10 million by the end of the year. Tomorrow funds will significantly expand resources to support students with tuition scholarships, gap grants (for non-tuition grants like books, MetroCards and childcare), internship support including stipends, technology support (laptop loans and Wi-Fi hotspots) and more. Ninety-five percent of funds raised will go directly to students.

“We’re aiming high with this ambitious fundraising campaign because of the urgent need to help New Yorkers get back on their feet. The $15 million will transform the lives of LaGuardia students and create a new talent pool for New York City employers,” LaGuardia Community College President Kenneth Adams said. “The impact of gifts to Tomorrow will be felt immediately by hardworking, resilient students who are striving to better themselves, their families and our city — setting them up for a better tomorrow.”

LaGuardia serves over 30,000 students a year in associate degree, accelerated workforce, pre-college and high school equivalency programs. Many come to LaGuardia eager to build a better life, with a majority of students living below the poverty line, earning less than $30,000 per year, and many others are immigrants or first-generation college students.

Financial support can mean the difference between graduating or dropping out of college, or staying in a minimum wage job versus securing better employment.

Tomorrow funds will be available to all LaGuardia students, regardless of immigration or citizenship status, in both degree and non-degree programs.

“By raising $15 million we will increase support available for LaGuardia students by 500% — in recent years we raised approximately $3 million annually — and given the toll of COVID-19, it’s needed,” LaGuardia Foundation Board Chair Suzie Scanlon Rabinowitz, Esq. said. “We are incredibly grateful for the generous donors who have helped us raise $4.8 million to date for Tomorrow. We are asking friends of the college, corporate partners, philanthropies and LaGuardia alumni, faculty and staff to help us raise the $5.2 million still needed to qualify for the $5 million gift. Please join us today.”

Accelerated workforce training programs, often provided with the school’s industry partners, and pre-college programs are provided through LaGuardia’s Adult and Continuing Education Division. Students who complete these programs often go straight into well-paying jobs or enter college ready to succeed. However, as non-degree programs, there are no federal or state programs to help them pay their tuition.

“Our workforce training programs are vital to helping students get back to work, and we are proud to be one of the first community colleges to offer scholarships specifically for non-degree students,” Adams said. “Without emergency aid, unexpected financial burdens can lead to students dropping out of school. Whereas, students who receive aid from the LaGuardia Foundation are three times more likely to graduate than general students.”

Computer science major Sabiha Farheen is a case in point having received support from the LaGuardia Foundation during the height of the pandemic when her parents lost their hospitality jobs. After working as a home health aide, a barista and other jobs including one at a salad store, Farheen landed at LaGuardia and excelled with a GPA of around 3.6 and an internship in media.

“Once I figured out what I wanted to do, it drove me to do as best as possible,” Farheed said. “My family and I are so thankful to LaGuardia. The scholarship, grocery money and my paid internship at CNBC helped me keep my family afloat during a scary time. And I was able to stay in school and even gain valuable work experience. Now I’m on track to graduate from LaGuardia in December and transfer to a four-year college for my bachelor’s, and then start my career in tech.”

To learn more about LaGuardia Community College’s Tomorrow Campaign, or to make a donation, visit laguardia.edu/tomorrow.