Emergency fund keeps first-generation students in school

Takoya Porter poses for a photo on a wall
Ohio State student Takoya Porter said the Tally Hart First-Generation Emergency Fund has helped her take a step closer to achieving her dream of a college degree.

To say Takoya Porter has encountered challenges most students have never faced is an understatement.

The 32-year-old licensed vocational nurse and single mother relocated to Columbus as part of a family violence prevention program; her son’s father had committed a double homicide in their small hometown while addicted to drugs.

While the relocation was important for Takoya and her son’s well-being, it removed her family support system—especially difficult as she transferred from Wright State University to Ohio State. The burden of paying rent and tuition was at times too much to bear. “I struggled because I had attended vocational schools and ran out of financial aid, so coming to Ohio State, I had to pay out of pocket. I feared I would not be able to complete my degree,” says Takoya, a psychology major and African and African American Studies minor.

She was working part-time and had depleted her savings. Then one month, she had to choose between paying rent or tuition. “That was when my advisor sent me to the Student Advocacy Center. They were a godsend,” says Takoya.

Among other resources like a food pantry referral and scholarship information, the center helped Takoya apply for funding from the Tally Hart First Generation Emergency Fund (Fund #313864). Thanks to the fund, Takoya was able to pay her rent and stay in school. It was life changing. “I'm so grateful because I didn't know if I was going to be able to come back to Ohio State this year,” she tearfully recounts.

 The fund was created by Tally Hart, who retired from Ohio State in 2011 from her role as the university’s first-ever senior advisor for economic access, following a decade as director of the Office of Student Financial Aid. In addition to the progress she made at Ohio State, Tally was among the nation’s leading advocates for increasing access to higher education for all, including students who are the first in their family to attend college.

 Katy Trombitas, now senior director of development for Ohio State’s health science colleges, had the privilege of working side-by-side with Tally years ago on a student financial literacy program. Katy is proud to honor her friend and mentor by giving to the fund that bears Tally’s name through Campus Campaign. Says Katy, “For many very talented first-generation students, a small financial emergency—like a car breaking down or a medical bill—can be the difference between graduating and being forced to drop out.”  

 Supporting students from all socioeconomic backgrounds makes Ohio State stronger, says Katy. “We're attracting people from more diverse backgrounds, and engaging a wider breadth of really talented, brilliant students. We need to make sure we're providing the support they need to be successful.”

 Takoya is one of those students. With graduation coming up in August, her dream of becoming the first in her family to graduate is now well within reach. She is currently working as a detox nurse and interning at a Columbus-based treatment center—a bittersweet reminder of her past life. “Given my history with my son’s father being addicted to drugs, some days it’s a struggle to be in this environment. And other days it’s rewarding, because I got out.” 

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