In response to the deadly wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian Islands in early August, Seattle University established the Hawai’i Student Emergency Support Fund to assist impacted students and their families. As of September 21, $39,914 has been raised to help with housing, travel, academic resources and other necessities.
The wildfires, with Western Maui suffering the most devastating impacts, are the deadliest in the U.S. since 1918, leaving at least 115 dead and 66 missing, as reported by the Associated Press. The historic town of Lahaina suffered destruction of more than 2,000 structures, with an estimated $5.5 billion in damages.
Currently, 356 SU students hail from Hawai’i, with 44 of those coming from Maui. As the tragedy unfolded, university administration quickly created the Hawai’i Student Emergency Support Fund and reached out to the Redhawk community for support.
Associate Provost and Dean of Students James Willette, PhD, shared, “The aftermath of the wildfires has had innumerable impacts on our students and families from Hawai’i and we have an opportunity to directly support those affected. We have heard from many within our community that you would like to support these students."
Within the first 24 hours of being activated, the fund exceeded $10,000. The numbers continued to climb in the following weeks in an inspiring response from the SU community.
As the fund was being prepared, staff and student ambassadors in the Office of Student Development reached out to students from Maui to check-in and inform them of the availability of funds. As of September 10, $15,500 has been distributed to six students. Funds will remain available for students to request as the school year progresses.
Students were impacted by the wildfires in innumerable ways, with many of their families left with struggling businesses. One student shared that their father is a firefighter in Maui at the frontline of the disaster and that, due to many tourists cancelling their trips to Maui, their family’s business lost customers and will likely have to shut down. Another student reported their family’s food truck business was destroyed in the fires and the emergency funds assisted in paying tuition.
As nearly 100 students from Hawai’i begin their first quarter at SU, the community continues to provide assistance.
“I am extremely grateful to see the efforts that my college is putting out to make us feel seen and supported, so thank you so much,” a student from Maui wrote. Another said, “I really, really appreciate the school’s assistance during this time and am grateful to have the support from Seattle U and the Deans.”
Seattle University is committed to the success of every student and will continue to provide necessary aid to students affected by this tragedy. The Hawai’i Student Emergency Support Fund is still receiving contributions here, with 100% of the funding going directly to students in need.