Oct 23, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
Devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is creating financial hardship for Georgia Tech students from the Caribbean. Donations are being sought for a temporary scholarship fund to help.
Georgia Tech’s international student community dates back to 1895, when the very first non-U.S. students enrolled from Puerto Rico, then part of the Spanish Empire. Since then, Yellow Jackets from the Caribbean and Latin America have become an integral part of the Institute’s legacy. Currently, there are 62 students from Puerto Rico and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands at Georgia Tech.
Now, with these areas confronting dire circumstances such as little to no electricity, disrupted communications, damaged infrastructure, and massive fuel shortages, businesses in the region are expected to remain closed for months, and many of our students’ families may face severe, unforeseen financial hardships.
To ensure that these students will be able to stay enrolled at Georgia Tech while the region stabilizes and rebuilds, the Office of Development has created an emergency scholarship fund. Eligibility criteria will be determined by the Office of Scholarship and Financial Aid, and priority will be given to students who are farthest along in pursuit of their degrees.
To help the students through this crisis, Development is seeking an expendable fund of a minimum of $1 million.
Alumnus Humberto Ortega, IE 1964, originally from Cuba, has made a lead gift of five figures to the fund. No stranger to financial uncertainties himself, he was a junior in high school when Fidel Castro came to power and appropriated the wealth of the people — leaving his family barely able to scrape up the money to send him to the U.S. for an education as they had always planned.
Once he got to Georgia Tech, he and many other refugees from Cuba were helped with jobs, room and board, and funds for tuition, allowing them to earn their degrees and go on to pursue their careers, mostly in the U.S.
When Ortega learned about the plan to support Georgia Tech’s Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Island students as they face their own financial uncertainties, he discussed it with his wife, who encouraged him to help.
“I have lived a good life and built resources I can share with others who face acute, unexpected need,” said Ortega, who has already included Tech in his estate plans and makes annual contributions to the “Rebuilding the Bridge” scholarship endowment for Tech students of Cuban descent. “It’s tough being in school and not know if you can stay.”
Ortega encourages other members of the Georgia Tech community – friends, alumni, faculty, staff, and students — to contribute to the fund, as well.
“I hope others will join me in making it possible for anyone who needs help to get it — and ‘get out,’ he said.
All contributions, large or small, to the “Emergency Scholarship for Students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands” are welcome. To make a donation, go to www.development.gatech.edu/ways-give.