Supporting our Lynn family—and their families

Emergency relief scholarships help students from hurricane-damaged areas.

Gillian Bradley Hughes overlooks campus
Gillian Bradley Hughes dreamed of attending Lynn University before Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated her hometown in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

When a hurricane hits a student’s hometown, it doesn’t matter if they’re at college hundreds of miles away—they worry about their family and friends.

“Lynn University is a home away from home for our students; however, events affecting a student’s family may have a significant impact on their ability to remain focused on the university experience,” said Anthony Altieri, vice president of student affairs.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, student affairs staff members contacted students from the Florida Panhandle to make sure they were aware of campus resources available to them.

“It’s important that the university pay attention to both individual and community-based incidents so we can provide support as needed,” Altieri said. “We want to help students maintain successful academic journeys while managing the emotion and impact those circumstances have on them.”

In keeping with this concern, the university created emergency relief scholarships to assist freshman students whose families were affected by last year’s two Category 5 hurricanes.

Hoping against hope

Ariadna Rivera’s father warned her not to get her hopes up about attending Lynn.

The high school senior from Juana Díaz, Puerto Rico, was just weeks away from her first semester at Lynn—she hoped. But Hurricane Maria had destroyed so much of her community that her father had been unable to work for six months. The family had also lost a house and a car to storm damage.

Rivera and her classmates took extraordinary measures to finish their final year of school.

“We had no power for four months,” she recalled. Families went to her school every two weeks to hand in assignments and to get the next batch.

And Rivera wondered whether she’d been accepted to Lynn.

“On December third, I was eating in a restaurant with my family, and I noticed other people looking at their phones. So I picked up my phone—I’d brought it to the restaurant to charge it—and I said, ‘Dad, I got a bar!’ Then I started refreshing and refreshing and scrolling to see my messages.”

The Office of Admission had sent her acceptance letter on September 23; Rivera read it in the restaurant 10 weeks later. “I said to my dad, ‘I got in! I got in!’”

Her excitement was tempered, though, by the family’s financial situation.

A one-two punch

Over in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gillian Bradley Hughes and her father also were struggling with the storm’s aftermath. Hurricane Irma and Maria hit almost exactly three weeks apart, delivering a one-two punch to the islands that disrupted life for the rest of her senior year.

During Irma, she and her father watched cracks appear in their front door as the 225 mph winds bowed the wood. Maria flooded their house up to Gillian’s knees, and they removed the water using dustpans—the best tools available.

Because Hughes’ father is an electrical and general contractor, she said, he was issued a pass to travel during the post-hurricane curfew. Minors couldn’t be left alone, so Hughes also received a pass and rode along with her dad, viewing the destruction close up. The area was without power from Sept. 5 until early December.

She and her classmates spent the rest of the academic year making up the time they’d lost during the storms and the aftermath. “We didn’t mind. We just wanted to graduate,” she said.

“My class had to grow up within that month,” she said. “We learned lessons we never would have learned without the hurricanes.”

“When I visited Lynn, I just fell in love,” said Hughes, who cited Lynn’s small classes and personal attention as her main reasons for choosing Lynn.

“Being able to come to such a beautiful place, thanks to Lynn’s donors … it was a relief.”

Rivera’s scholarship came through just in time for her to pack her bags for her first semester.

“My dad started crying. After everything, I was still going to be able to go to Lynn.”

To make a gift to support Lynn’s immediate needs, visit give.lynn.edu/support-academics.

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