Microgrants in action: Four real learner stories of impact

Real stories of how a small grant at the right time can change a student’s life

A sleepless night in the car. An empty gas tank, with no way to get to class. A day without a meal – let alone energy for school. Emergencies like these act as real barriers for learners working to build a better life. That’s why InsideTrack’s Crisis Support Services (CSS) team has launched an initiative to give donation-funded microgrants to learners in crisis — to ensure that learners aren’t left without support in a moment when they need in the most. Every microgrant and touchpoint with our CSS team ensures that a learner has the basic resources they need to get them through their immediate crisis — plus actionable next steps or resource connections to ensure the support doesn’t stop there.

As a pioneer in one-on-one direct student coaching for more than 20 years, we’ve seen firsthand that there are gaps in resources that need immediate attention. An electric bill payment to keep the lights on. A medical expense that makes other costs — like school — unaffordable. And sometimes, it’s as basic as the need for food, shelter or safety. 

But the best way to see what a difference a microgrant can make is to hear directly from the students these grants have helped. Here are stories from four real learners (their names have been changed to protect their identities) who have been supported through the Emergency Support Microgrants at InsideTrack.

Amy’s story

Amy and her 14-year-old son live in the Bay Area. Amy is a full-time employee and mom, while also putting herself through a certification program to get a job in the healthcare field. But with limited resources and support, she found herself without access to stable housing. She was spending all of her money on hotel rooms that had internet, so she and her son could both complete their online school work. 

Amy was doing everything she could, staying connected with all of the government and nonprofit agencies that could help her find housing. She was next on the list to receive housing, but the agencies she applied to were within holding periods for accessible housing. And while she got food from the SNAP program, the hotel rooms often didn’t have kitchens and she wasn’t able to cook. When she didn’t have enough money for a room, she and her son had no choice but to sleep in the car. 

When our CSS team met Amy and learned that she and her son didn’t have access to stable housing, or at-times even temporary housing besides their car, a $520.52 microgrant bought them a week-long stay at a hotel with internet and a kitchenette, so she could cook food for the two of them. Amy’s microgrant didn’t buy her housing, but it bought her the stability of a place to sleep and feed herself and her son, along with access to electricity and the internet so she could continue working toward bettering her life.

Stephen’s story

Stephen was moving into a new home when he got into a car accident. As an older man with major health issues, including seizures that caused him to go unconscious as a direct result of his accident, he quickly ended up moving into his trailer with his three dogs — all while trying to apply for school at a local university. With a car damaged from the accident and two flat tires on his trailer, he ended up parked in a grocery store parking lot. Before long, the grocery store gave Stephen an ultimatum: he would need to move his car, or his car would get repossessed — which meant he’d have no shelter for himself and his dogs.

When the InsideTrack Crisis Support Services team connected with Stephen, they were able to send a $250.98 microgrant for tires for his trailer in order to keep the only housing he had left, as well as stay on the phone with him as he walked to the pharmacy to secure much-needed medication for his medical conditions. While the microgrant helped Stephen, the CSS team also helped him make the decision to hold off on his university application while they worked to connect him with resources to apply for more stable housing.

Katherine’s story

Katherine was working her way through a course in a community college degree program, when she experienced a domestic violence situation and needed support and resources that would keep her safe. As a result, she was forced to uproot herself and her three kids into a new housing situation. She had recently received shut-off notices for her utilities due to the financial strain of her relocation. And in the midst of all of the stress, Katherine was finishing up her final assignment to complete her college course — which meant that meant she was trying to complete her final six-page paper on her phone. 

With two microgrants — $181.54 for her energy bill and $393.19 for her internet bill — Katherine was most importantly able to keep her electricity on for herself and her kids. She was also able to more easily finish her final project, letting her finish her college course and stay on her educational track.

Maya’s story

Maya was working toward her degree at community college. As a next step in her education journey, she applied and was accepted to a four-year university, in hopes that it would help her continue on her desired career pathway. However, throughout the acceptance process, Maya was experiencing houselessness, and needed to accelerate the housing decision process at her new institution. Unfortunately, a $582 credit transfer fee with her community college left a hold on her account — one which she was unable to pay, and therefore unable to apply for housing options at her new university. She was stuck at a standstill — and without housing —until that balance was paid. 

The microgrant that Maya received freed her from the account hold from her community college, and allowed her to move forward with housing options — putting her closer to beginning her education at her new school.


With the need for student crisis support services escalating further since the pandemic, our team has been busy helping more learners than ever address their immediate needs. Our statistical analysis from 2020 provides excellent background on how the program works, who it serves, the types of issues most often addressed and other key findings.

Read the Report

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