Reflections on 2020: Thankful for Community

By: Ali Meisel, Director of Development

As we launch into 2021, the words “happy new year” have taken on a different meaning. While we knew the pandemic and its multitude of impacts wouldn’t miraculously disappear on January 1, turning the calendar does offer us an opportunity to reflect on the past year.

2020 was an incredibly challenging year for us all, fraught with fear, uncertainty, and pain (personal and collective). We saw illness and death among relatives, friends, and fellow citizens. We saw schools close and businesses suffer. And we saw, with greater clarity, the racial and economic injustices that remain deeply-seeded in our society — all while having to stay six feet away from each other.

The first-generation, low-income students we serve and their families were among the hardest hit. They already lacked access to the support needed to prepare for and succeed in college as a result of poor resourcing in their schools and communities. COVID-19 compounded the obstacles to higher education due to the digital divide and pandemic unemployment, causing students to forgo or delay college.

Despite these incredible challenges, our Fulfillment Fund community banded together — evenFulfillment Fund Students on Decision Day from a distance — to ensure our students continue to receive the support they need on their journeys through high school, college, and beyond. We are humbled by the extraordinary resolve and tenacity of our school partners, volunteers, donors, alumni, staff, and students themselves over the last year to not let COVID-19 impede students’ educational trajectories.

  • We are thankful for the teachers and administrators at our partner schools for their support and collaboration in helping ensure their students remained connected to Fulfillment Fund’s college access services, even as they were figuring out distance learning for themselves.
    We are thankful for our volunteers who provided college, career and other workforce-readiness guidance to our students through webinars and workshops, including our first-ever virtual Destination College+ that reached students across the U.S. These opportunities were invaluable for our students and would not have been possible without their involvement.
  • We are thankful for our alumni who planned workshops and programs for our students, offered their leadership and guidance as part of our Alumni Board and other Fulfillment Fund committees, and raised and contributed toward operating funds.
    We are thankful for our Board of Directors, ScholarBridge Board members, and board committee members who are steadfast champions and give selflessly of their time, talent, treasure, and relationships to ensure our work is sustained long into the future.
  • We are thankful for our donors who, in an exceptionally challenging economic climate, stepped up to support our students and their futures. Our 2020 Protecting Students’ Dreams Together year-end campaign raised more than double the amount raised at the end of 2019, with more than 275 unique donors contributing, and some giving more than once. We are deeply humbled by our community’s generosity and commitment to our mission of educational equity.
  • We are thankful for our staff who did not skip a beat when schools closed last March. Over the last year, they have adapted, innovated, and tailored our programs to ensure students continued receiving critical college access and college success services and resources. And despite encountering obstacles along the way, they did not give up and continue to be resilient and resourceful. It is because of their tenacity that the first-generation students we serve, who may have otherwise believed college was not financially viable for them during the pandemic, for example, were guided to scholarship and financial aid opportunities that made applying to college possible.
  • And, finally, we are thankful for our students who have exemplified the importance of Student back in school virtuallycommunity during this pandemic. They have stepped up to support each other, even from a distance. They have shared Fulfillment Fund resources and webinars with classmates, and our college students have even helped create better strategies for our Peer Mentoring Program. Before the pandemic, student mentors and mentees connected only with those attending the same college. Using virtual platforms, however, they were able to bring Fulfillment Fund students from all campuses together to socialize and support one another.

Without our community, Fulfillment Fund would not have been able to weather 2020 as successfully as we have. At a time when thousands of nonprofit organizations are at risk of shutting their doors (if they haven’t already) due to the economic impact of COVID-19, our deep gratitude cannot be overstated. We are all in this together as we forge our way into 2021, and we look forward to coming together again and again in support of our students — the foundation of our future!

Happy new year!

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