Skip to main content
Pack Essentials

Challenge Gift to Address Student Housing Insecurity

Steve Deaton ’79 has issued a special challenge gift to support housing scholarships through the Pack Essentials program on Day of Giving. If 100 gifts are made, he will provide $25,000 to the fund.

Aerial view of Centennial Campus with downtown Raleigh in the background
Aerial view of Centennial Campus with downtown Raleigh in the background

There are many reasons NC State students might find themselves facing housing insecurity — or even becoming homeless. Some might be struggling to pay the rent due to rising apartment costs in the Triangle area. Others might be Ph.D. or graduate students whose funding runs out. In more extreme cases, they might be fleeing an abusive relationship. Whatever the reason, even a single student facing housing insecurity is already one too many. 

That’s why on NC State’s 2022 Day of Giving on March 23, Steve Deaton ’79 and his wife Gladys are issuing a special challenge gift to support housing scholarships through the Pack Essentials program on Day of Giving. If 100 gifts are made, he will provide $25,000 to the fund. Deaton and Ghazale Johnston ’96 each provided $25,000 last year to establish the housing scholarships after a study showed that 15 percent of NC State students had experienced homelessness since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really about getting the word out and raising awareness of the issue,” Deaton said. “When I talk to other alumni, I still very often get this look of disbelief. Many folks are not aware this problem exists on our campus and campuses all over the country. Day of Giving provides the unique opportunity to get the word out, and I challenge my fellow alumni to join me in this effort.”

‘A Great Investment’

As a young graduate, Deaton faced financial hardship of his own. After spending his first two years out of college working in landscape architecture, he decided to change career paths and enter the real estate business. 

“When I first started, I was so broke that I mowed grass to pay rent and buy groceries,” Deaton said. “Those were very challenging times. I went about two years working 60-70 hours a week, always worried if I could pay that month’s bills. I made no money in the real estate business during that time, so the grass mowing paid the bills. It was very humbling to go back to what had paid my way through college as the means to pay bills after receiving my degree, but I learned a great deal about myself during that time. Today, after 40 years in the investment real estate business, it all seems to have worked out.”

When Deaton first learned about the Pack Essentials program, he felt responsible for supporting students facing similar challenges.

“I have learned through trial and error that the individuals I want to help are those that are already working hard to help themselves, but they are struggling due to circumstances beyond their control. These students who are studying, going to class, pursuing a degree and likely working a part-time job while struggling with food or housing insecurity certainly fit into the category of people I want to help. These students have already done a lot right just to get accepted into NC State. They have already proven themselves. This is not a ‘handout.’ This is a ‘hand up.’ I consider it a great investment.”

Steve and Gladys Deaton
Steve and Gladys Deaton

Johnston also believes that giving towards housing scholarships and other Pack Essentials support areas is a worthwhile investment, and that no student should have to feel alone during difficult times. 

“I support the Pack Essentials program because it’s not just helping NC State students when they are experiencing a crisis, but also because its solutions are strategic and help make sure students achieve long term stability,” Johnston said. “The stress of a financial crisis or of experiencing food or housing insecurity can be overwhelming and having to manage school and work will only further hurt one’s well-being.”

One of Johnston’s greatest passions is ensuring that families — and college students — have food to eat and a roof over their heads. She also wants them to have the tools, training or resources they need to overcome life’s unique challenges. Johnston worked for 20 years as a management consultant at Accenture in Charlotte, N.C. until her retirement five years ago. Since then, she has helped build Daymaker, an online gift-giving platform that creates possibilities for children being served by nonprofits across the nation. Last year, Johnston launched Joon Solutions and started to deliver intentional coaching and career planning to aspiring young professionals, including college juniors and seniors as well as women returning to the workforce after extended leaves of absence.

“Supporting Pack Essentials and these housing scholarships is a direct way to change the trajectory of a student’s life,” Johnston said. “No student should ever be expected to thrive when they are sleeping in their car at night or surfing from couch to couch. If we want to create economic mobility in the state, we need to support and nurture our most vulnerable students all the way through graduation, and housing is a critical element.”

Providing Opportunities to Succeed

Housing scholarships are just one way that NC State is helping students overcome financial hardship, particularly during the pandemic. From March 2020 through May 2021, Pack Essentials awarded 2,918 grants totaling $1,277,844 to help undergraduate and graduate students afford their most basic needs while continuing their education online. Also during the 2020-2021 academic year, Pack Essentials provided 18 meal scholarships totaling $23,931 and 1,055 meal share meals for students to eat in the university’s dining halls. Additionally, the Feed the Pack Food Pantry distributed 131,800 pounds of food.

In another effort to help prevent student homelessness, NC State has partnered with the BWEL Foundation to establish the HOST (Housing Options for Students Today) program. Through HOST, college students are matched with local community members and invited to live in their homes on a temporary basis while they address their financial or housing needs. 

CBS17 spoke with NC State student Etienne Phillips, one of the first to benefit from the HOST program. Click the image above to learn more about his story.

“This housing scholarship is another valuable tool in the tool chest of Pack Essentials,” said Mike Giancola, assistant vice provost and student ombudsperson. “This isn’t just a band aid. This is really meant to be a comprehensive assessment of student needs to get them connected to the resources they need in the short-term and long-term.”

For NC State’s 2022 Day of Giving on March 23, Deaton is calling on all NC State alumni, faculty and staff and friends of the university to support housing scholarships and give every student the opportunity to succeed despite their circumstances. 

“I don’t do this because I feel sorry for these students,” Deaton said. “I do it because I believe it’s a great investment. Hungry or homeless is not ‘who’ these students are. It’s ‘where’ they are. I have very high expectations for where they are going and what they can achieve. I also believe that many of them will one day accept the responsibility of taking on a lead role in addressing these issues for future students.”

Giancola applauded Deaton for his continued support of the Pack Essentials program.

“Steve and Gladys have been instrumental in the university’s overall Pack Essentials efforts,” Giancola said. “Their vision for a campus without food and housing insecurity alongside their generous support have provided critical resources for our students. The challenge gift for the housing scholarship is just the latest example of their leadership in support of our students.

“The housing scholarship is an important tool to help us address the rising housing insecurity of our students,” Giancola continued. “If a student is worried about finding a safe place to live or being evicted, they likely are not fully focused on their studies and oftentimes unable to maximize their potential while at NC State. Private support helps us put action behind the words that we are one Wolfpack community committed to our students’ success.”
Learn more about Day of Giving here, and support housing scholarships here.