‘Gratitude rally’ by student parents makes financial-aid officers’ day

Bearing handmade posters and homemade cookies, student parents offered a spirited “thanks” to campus financial-aid officers from the Sproul steps Wednesday.

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Financial-aid director Rachelle Feldman (center) with student parents Cynthia Leimbach and Matthew Lloyd

“You are here because of your own talents and abilities,” English major Cynthia Leimbach told about 15 fellow members of the Student Parent Association of Retention and Recruitment (SPARR), at what they had dubbed a “gratitude rally.”

“But you are also here because of their awesomeness,” she added, referring to the campus staffers who help students cover their bills. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the diligence of Financial Aid. None of us would.”

Being a financial-aid officer, most days, is a “thankless position” — just like parenting, Leimbach said.

“Student parents get a little freaked out mid-January,” as they worry about finances, observed nutrition major Matthew Lloyd, a single dad who lives in University Village student housing.

This year was different, he said, because of a “New Year’s surprise”: word via email that Financial Aid and Scholarships, ending 2013 with extra funds, had decided to direct the surfeit to student parents, in part to help them better balance school and family life.

In addition to raising his 5-year old son and keeping up with course work, Lloyd has been bartending on Friday nights to help make ends meet. The unexpected financial boost means he won‘t have to add a second late night, he said with relief.

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Shannon Dowling (left), financial-aid liaison to student parents, with student-parent alumna Judy Schafer

Assistant Vice Chancellor Rachelle Feldman, financial-aid director, joined the students on Sproul to soak in the goodwill. “You made my day,” she said. “Thank you for thanking us.”

Eventually the student parents went inside Sproul to personally deliver their thanks and sweets to staff.

They were greeted at the office door by Joan Kemp, who has worked in Financial Aid since 1987. “This is the first time anyone’s done anything like this,” Kemp noted. “We service students to help them get through Cal; we don’t see them if there’s not a problem.”

This was “a pleasant surprise,” she said.