VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – ‘Unite for USD’ is the university’s annual day of giving. They ask the Vermillion community to donate funds to major university programs. However, after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a good portion of those funds is going to help their students’ mental and emotional states.
“It’s been very difficult for a lot of students and also myself, personally,” Student Body President Abuk Jiel said.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are hard on many students at the University of South Dakota.
“Once the pandemic hit, and we were on that extended spring break, I think, for myself and for just many of my friends, it was just a very hard transition,” Jiel said.
She says that trying to juggle finances, schooling, and seeing family takes a toll.
“And that bled throughout the summer and also throughout the first semester and also now – I mean, we’re in such a weird transition now where everything is completely virtual,” Jiel said.
“It’s difficult enough to be at college and worry about being successful and all of that, but now COVID has put on different pressures,” Vice President and Dean of Students Kim Grieve said.
Grieve says they’ve noticed a spike in the number of students seeking help.
“We’ve seen a 30-percent increase in our students going to counseling appointments at our Cook House, and so, nationally as well as at USD we’ve seen an increase in the effects of COVID and mental health,” Grieve said.
Over the weekend, they raised funds for the campus through their annual ‘Unite for USD’ initiative – which for this year they put special emphasis on student’s well-being. They had over 15 million donors and raised $1.6 million for the University. $60,000 will go toward mental health resources.
“We are just so pleased that so many areas on campus are going to benefit from the donations,” Grieve said.
Proving to students like Jiel, that when it comes to seeking help, on or off-campus, it won’t be hard to find.
“I’m really excited that we even reached a number this high – especially during a pandemic. It just goes to show how much people care about each other and how much we can do by simply asking, which is awesome,” Jiel said.