Rising from the flames

By Grace Singh Smith

In the aftermath of Woolsey Fire, Santa Monica College students find help—and hope.

The Woolsey Fire in California occurred nearly a year ago, but the effects are still being felt by many. Now, there’s some relief for affected community college students.

Five Santa Monica College (SMC) students who lost their homes in the devastating November 2018 fire have received “relief awards” from the SMC Foundation. The foundation raised more than $51,000; the students received awards ranging from $5,700 to $20,000 based on need.

SMC student Gina Venditti, one of the recipients, is working towards an associate degree in film studies. She recalls that the Woolsey Fire – which destroyed her home in Malibuturned her life “upside down.”

“The night before the fires, I was visiting my fiancé on location in NYC where he was shooting a feature film, and we were talking about our [wedding] plans,” said Venditti. “The Woolsey Fire happened so fast that we were unable to save our animals and . . . our belongings. It has been devastating and brings me to tears, still.”

Venditti said that while things have gotten less difficult day by day, the natural disaster created a lot of emotional trauma. In the aftermath of the fire, Venditti began commuting to Los Angeles, renting a room with a friend when she was able to find work. She also took an SMC class online to continue her education, and “stay focused and determined.”

She and her fiancé are slowly replacing their things and are beginning to “feel a sense of hope for the future.” When SMC counselor Jenna Gausman called Venditti to tell her that she was one of the recipients of the SMC Foundation’s Woolsey Fire fundraising campaign, she “started crying on the phone.”

“I was completely in shock,” said Venditti. “I had no idea that the SMC Foundation was going to help. I am grateful. I am so grateful!”

The SMC Foundation received more than 89 contributions through the Woolsey Fire fundraising campaign initially launched in November 2018.

Get more information here.

Grace Singh Smith
Grace Singh Smith

is a public information officer at Santa Monica College in California.