Mark and Therese Jordan at a Roosevelt men's basketball game

Last fall, Therese and Mark Jordan said goodbye to their twins as they both went out of state for college: her daughter to compete for a school in Minnesota and her son, Lucas, to compete for the Roosevelt Lakers. Now they prepare to do so again while the pandemic rages on.

As a donor to the Student Emergency Assistance Fund, Therese takes comfort in the fact that the fund is available as a “safety net” to all students. If Lucas ever needs extra support, she says, she’s grateful to know that Roosevelt is making students the priority.

“We had something to give"

Lucas Jordan is a now a sophomore wing on the Roosevelt University basketball team. With many competitive offers to choose from, Lucas picked Roosevelt for its strong community. He clicked with the basketball coaches and could be close to his extended family. For Lucas, who’s African American, it was important to be a part of the diverse, accepting and socially conscious community that embodies Roosevelt.

In March, Lucas headed home for spring break with just one duffel bag, planning to return in a week for practice. Then, like universities across the country, Roosevelt extended its spring break and canceled college athletics competitions. Lucas stayed home in New Mexico.

The Jordan family hasn’t escaped the anxieties and consequences of the pandemic themselves, the challenges of medical scares, job losses, debt. The Jordans feel incredibly grateful to have been able to pay it forward for others during a time of need through the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. They hope their small gift could make a difference for students without anywhere else to turn.

“Our family has struggled where we have felt on the brink of the edge,” Therese said. “we are so incredibly fortunate. I felt like we had something to give.”

When small gifts add up

Known on campus as the Laker Grant, the emergency fund was created in the fall of 2019. Roosevelt received three requests and gave out three grants that semester. Then hundreds of requests started pouring in during the pandemic. Lakers needed help covering an urgent care bill, a broken A/C unit, a replacement asthma inhaler.

As a social worker, Therese has deep empathy for what it’s like to be in a place where everything can appear hopeless. She knows how life-changing a little support can be.

“Even though our gift was small, to somebody in need it could have been just the right amount to get through to the next day,” she said. “If someone doesn’t have to drop out of school, or gets to stay in their house or pay their car payment, it’s worth it.”

Through the emergency fund, donors gave over $70,000 to 168 students. Every dollar raised has been awarded, and more students are waiting for the application to reopen.

Returning to a changed campus

In preparation for his return to the Goodman Center, Lucas has been training faithfully on his own. He meets for frequent Zooms with his teammates and coaches Joe Griffin and Roy Ramos. Therese and Mark consider the coaches at Roosevelt an incredibly precious resource, a gift to their family and son.

“When you have a student-athlete, there is always a sense of support,” Therese said. “I know the coaches’ investment is not just winning basketball games. If Lucas could no longer play basketball, I know Coach Griffin, Coach Ramos and team community would continue to support his goals and success at Roosevelt.”

Hundreds of other Roosevelt students are gearing up to return to a semester that looks very different than the last. Faculty members have dedicated the summer to creating lesson plans that keep students engaged, whether they’re socially distanced in person or at home.

For those who need a little extra support, Therese hopes that the Roosevelt community will continue to help students through emergencies.

“Once you take a break from your education, we all know how hard it is to come back,” Therese said. “I hope that students will be able to finish what they started, and have a sense of comfort that people, your community, your fellow students and their families cares about you.”

Therese added, “Roosevelt is committed to that success, and we were happy to have the opportunity to contribute to Roosevelt’s mission of dedication to success and demonstration of a community working towards the greater good.”

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