Emergency Scholarship Fund created in response to flooding

An emergency scholarship fund has been established for Hastings College students affected by the March flooding that occurred across the Midwest, especially in Nebraska.

Gary Freeman, executive director of the Hastings College Foundation, said 553 students live in areas affected by the flood waters. This makes up just over 60 percent of the student body.

As flood waters rose across the state, Freeman and the rest of the foundation started asking donors and social media followers to donate money to the fund. A meeting occurred on April 1 to finalize the details of how the scholarship fund is set up and how it will work.

As of Wednesday, the fund has raised over $30,000, but no students have applied for the scholarship.

“Students may not need the scholarship fund immediately, but they may need it in six months or a year from now,” said Susan Meeske, executive vice president of enrollment and student experience.

It is expected that applications will start coming in after FAFSA and taxes have been filed.

The scholarship amount will vary based on a student’s individual needs and circumstances; all students have to do is contact financial aid to get the process started.

“I think it’s important when we have a disaster like this that affects our students, our faculty and staff, we want to make sure that we are responsive to that,” said Meeske.

One student, first-year Blake Worsham, spent part of his spring break helping family. He received a call on March 15 from his cousin’s family, asking him to help evacuate horses from their hometown of Elkhorn, Nebraska. They tried taking the horses to Last Chance Ridge nearby but there wasn’t any room left there or in any of the other Omaha-area animal shelters. Instead, they had to take the horses to Farmington, Illinois.

Skye Hillman, a first- year from Grand Island, Nebraska, lives right by the middle channel of the Platte River, which flooded onto her family’s ranch. Her family owns a business called Lazy K Arena, which boards horses and holds ropings and sales. When the river started flooding, horses from six pens had to be moved around the ranch and into indoor boarding facilities, costing clients and the family money.

Besides dealing with the relocation of horses, repair and tree removal work had to be done on fences after trees fell. The Hillmans also had to postpone a roping and a bull sale after the river washed out one side of the driveway, making it impossible for people to get in or out, especially with trailers.

There are still pastures that the Hillmans can’t get to due to flooding, leaving the situation as a waiting game for them. Hillman is unsure how much it will cost for repairs in the long run.