AUSTIN, Texas — Students in Austin and College Station last week were among millions of Texans who found themselves pivoting from one crisis to another as freezing temperatures battered the state.
Even as basic necessities are restored, students at the state’s two flagship universities have been left to navigate repairs to damaged housing and looming bill payments in the aftermath of the winter storms. Student leaders at The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University aim to help their peers recover from the disaster through a joint fundraising campaign that launched Friday. Longhorn Nation can donate through the HornRaiser crowdfunding platform, and the Texas A&M community can donate through Spirit of Giving.
Donations to “Orange and Maroon: Texas Tough” will provide relief for students affected by the crisis. Contributions to the schools’ emergency funds will help students replace groceries spoiled by power outages, along with personal items and school supplies destroyed by burst pipes, and help with bills that they may now struggle to pay.
The fundraising campaign was borne out of discussions between UT Student Government President Anagha Kikkeri and her counterpart, Texas A&M Student Body President Eric Mendoza, who said that Longhorns and Aggies alike were greatly affected by the freeze that swept the region.
“We want the students to be able to focus on what they’re here for — which is school,” Mendoza said. “Distractions that are out of their control, like this winter storm, make that hard, especially when the impact is financial.”
Mendoza and Kikkeri said students faced similarly grim circumstances in both cities. First came the power outages, which left many without electricity and heat as temperatures plummeted. Then the taps ran dry, and pipes began to burst at apartment complexes across the state. When water treatment plants were knocked out by power failures, those who had running water were told to boil it before drinking and cooking.
Rolling power outages in Aggieland forced students to charge their cellphones in brief increments, Mendoza said, in order to maintain contact with family members elsewhere in the state. In Austin, Kikkeri said icy road conditions prevented students from leaving their homes to seek warmth or running water.
“Some students were going hungry because they didn’t have access to food,” she said. “It was a very intense situation.”
Donations to the schools’ emergency funds will directly support students through small grants. Even a small contribution can be of great help to students facing unexpected expenses, Mendoza said, whether those are groceries lost during power outages or other weather-related losses.
The 12-day crowdfunding effort will end Wednesday, March 10. In the spirit of friendly competition, the school that raises the most money for Texas students in need will be announced at the March 30 baseball game between the rivals.
“This has probably been the most uniquely challenging year students have faced in a long time,” Kikkeri said. “We had so much unrest, so much hurt in the country — it just permeates throughout our lives. The winter storm was another thing added into the mix, and we see a great need for students right now.”
Students have shown “incredible resilience” during the past year, Mendoza said, “but at the same time, they do need support.”
Students seeking aid as a result of the winter storms can submit an application online.