In the days after Hurricane Katrina last summer, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation established an emergency grant program to help journalism students who were forced to relocate to another college or university due to the devastating hurricane.
The program ended in February, after 27 students applied for and received $250 grants to assist with the purchasing of books and supplies for educational purposes.
“It’s one of the missions of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation to serve the needs of students, and I can’t think of a time when the need has been greater,” said Foundation President Todd Gillman when the grant program was announced in September.
Students receiving grants represented seven affected schools, including: Dillard University, Louisiana State University, Loyola University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana.
The students valued the help they received.
“I am writing to say thank you for the generous scholarship you awarded me after I was displaced by Hurricane Katrina,” wrote Jason Lieser, a student at Tulane University. “… I am very appreciative of the gift and used it to purchase textbooks at Northwestern State University, where I will attend until I return to Tulane in January.”
Amber Scott, a student at Dillard University wrote, “Currently, I attend Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga., and am doing very well. After I earn my bachelor’s degree in mass communication, I plan to attend grad school …”
The Sigma Delta Chi Foundation is an educational and charitable foundation that supports the work of the Society of Professional Journalists and other journalism outreach efforts. In 2005, the Foundation awarded more than $215,000 in grants. Those funds reach thousands of individuals and hundreds of newsrooms.
The direct, personal impact of the Katrina relief program made it a funding priority for the Foundation.
“The catastrophe along the Gulf Coast was unprecedented, and SDX directors didn’t hesitate to put the needs of journalism students at the top of our priority list, even if that meant juggling some finances,” said Gillman. “When your neighbor’s house is on fire you don’t haggle over the price of the hose. We were just trying to do what needed to be done. It’s hard enough these days being a journalist, or to break into the business. These students need all the help they can get.”
Despite the unprecedented disruption caused by the hurricane, the Foundation underscored its encouragement for these students to continue to pursue journalism careers.
“People who came through these hurricanes have a lifetime of stories to tell,” said Gillman. “Events that shape our lives and communities also forge better journalists. I hope the Foundation’s assistance helped ease some suffering. I think the profession will be enriched by every Katrina survivor who picks up a reporter’s notebook.”