The Homeless Scholar Flex Fund is a program that helps homeless students address their non-educational needs. The program's goal is to keep students on the path to graduation!Updates from Flex Fund for the EEqual Scholarship Awards Program
Hey! I’m excited to introduce myself and my organization! My name is Alyssa Gorkin (she/her) and my Call for Kindness project is the Flex Fund for the EEqual Scholarship Awards Program. EEqual is a by-youth-for-youth nonprofit working with students experiencing homelesness. I co-founded EEqual in 2016 after learning how few leadership opportunities existed for young people in the nonprofit sector. Paired with how underrepresented unhoused students are in higher education, EEqual and the EEqual Scholarship Awards Program were formed.
Since receiving our tax exemption in 2016 we have continued to face doubts about the ability for young people to lead in this capacity. However, we haven’t let that stop us, we have committed over $100,000 in scholarships and are currently supporting 36 students in higher education. This is where my project comes in. Going to college is expensive, far more expensive than any single scholarship accounts for. The expenses outside of the classroom add up. Our previous scholars expressed to us that they needed support with non-educational expenses, things like groceries, gas, bus passes, medical expenses, and personal care items. In order to meet these needs I designed the flex fund. The flex fund is a micro grants program for current EEqual scholars. It can be used to support non-educational expenses in order to further support our students. Because of Riley’s Way, the flex fund is no longer just an idea, but a reality. This past week I got to introduce the fund to our incoming scholars. Their reactions speak volumes about what I am looking forward to in the coming months of this fund. I am beyond excited to see how this fund is used and the ways in which small dollar (under $300) expenses can make meaningful differences for our students. It is easy to get caught up in big numbers and high yield but what makes this work so important to me is getting to see the first hand impact that our program can have on students.
Outside of my passion for educational equity I am a rising junior at Reed College in Portland, OR. Here I’m studying Psychology with a double minor in Music and Economics (I’m a bit indecisive). I hope to get my PhD after graduating. In my free time I enjoy embroidering, taking care of my house plants, playing with my cat, and cooking.
In my time working with Riley’s Way I have had a few stand out experiences that have shaped my understanding of my program moving forward. Without question the support the organization provides is a strength. It is evident that everyone involved in the organization is dedicated to ensuring that fellows have access to resources and are prompt with responses. I found the networking and LinkedIn calls to be especially helpful given where my organization is at and where I find myself personally. Similarly, the funding itself has been huge for the program. Since my project is connected to a larger program within EEqual, an already incorporated and functional 501(c)3 this opportunity to pilot new aspects of our scholarship program was key. I think the main opportunity for growth I see here is going a bit deeper into resources for already established organizations. Some of the fundraising and volunteer resources felt more applicable to projects that had not yet
established tax exempt status and so I would have enjoyed explicit opportunities around growth for established organizations.
It has been really rewarding to implement an aspect of our scholarship with such immediate and tangible rewards. The scholar flex fund has allowed us to very clearly meet the needs of our students that we otherwise would not have been able to. Some examples of flex fund requests have been medical bills, hygiene products, and dorm essentials. In providing these to students it has not only met their needs, but it has also helped us build a stronger sense of community with our students. Building community has been a central goal to our program and this has given us a tangible way to increase trust and student engagement which is beneficial to the function of the program at large.
Broadly speaking I am excited to see where the scholarship program goes as this year we reached our program capacity at around 40 scholars. We have introduced new activities for the students including a monthly informative session and a monthly social session. Examples of this have been LinkedIn coaching, creative problem solving, virtual game nights, and Netflix parties.
For the future I am excited to continue to grow this pilot program so we can continue to support individual needs for our students. Similarly, I am very excited for the Rileys Way retreat. I think there is immense value in spending time together in person and I am eager to engage in person.
In terms of staying involved, I am continuing my time at EEqual, and am always reachable by email and excited to share our work. More broadly, following our social media (@eequalnonprofit) is a great way to keep in touch with us and our work. This is also where we advertise our opportunities to engage with the organization in both volunteer and staff positions.