North Texas Daily

Scholarship, non-profit established for Helen Etuk as university has yet to comment

Scholarship, non-profit established for Helen Etuk as university has yet to comment

Scholarship, non-profit established for Helen Etuk as university has yet to comment
March 11
10:00 2021

The friends and family of Helen Etuk have launched a project to establish a scholarship and non-profit organization in her name as the university has yet to comment on her death. 

Etuk was a friendly, good-hearted person who was often described as a “gentle soul” by others, her brother Jeff Ayisire said. A 20-year-old senior, she was a member of the Honors College and studying to become a pediatrician. Etuk died on Jan. 12 from COVID-19 complications.

“Helen loves to help people any way she can and the fact that she wasn’t able to finish school really broke her heart,” Etuk’s best friend Taylor Brock said. “I want to be able to help someone in Helen’s name and her spirit to live on.”

Brock is working with Etuk’s mother, Helen Clinton, on the Helen Etuk Project to start a scholarship in Etuk’s name. The fund will not be major-specific but available to any student who needs help funding their education. While the scholarship will first start at the university, Brock aspires for the foundation to grow to a national scale.

The Helen Etuk Project is raising funds by selling t-shirts as a token of Etuk. The shirt was designed to represent her favorite things, including the color purple and children.

“So far, it’s not what I expected but I’m glad people are still sharing it and buying the shirt,” Brock said. “I didn’t want them to just donate and not have a piece of Helen as a thank you.”

While Clinton was unable to be reached for comment, Brock told the North Texas Daily Etuk’s mother is also working on a non-profit for lupus, which Etuk was diagnosed with in high school. The foundation will aim to assist young people and their parents with any financial struggles they face for treatment. 

Clinton told the New York Times that Etuk developed COVID-19 through in-person classes. She said her daughter described improper face mask usage on campus and in class, with students pulling their masks down and exposing their noses. 

“I don’t know but [Etuk’s infection] had to have been inside the school because she was at home and didn’t go out, didn’t go anywhere,” Ayisire said. “When the school opened up, we figured they opened because they’re taking the precautionary measures to prevent students from catching it.” 

Brock told the Daily none of Etuk’s roommates tested positive for COVID-19 when Etuk was infected.

“It’s kind of weird because it could have been from school,” Brock said  

The university has not released any communication regarding Etuk’s passing. While Senior Communications Specialist Trista Moxley told the Daily in an email on Feb. 11 its request for comment was sent “forward to work on getting […] a response,” the university ultimately did not respond. The Daily contacted Moxley again March 2 and did not receive a response  

“It made me upset that [the university] didn’t say anything,” Brock said. “When I posted [a memorial post] on my Twitter, people retweeted it and said they didn’t know. I already dealt with [Etuk’s passing] but when people didn’t know and asked me about it, it kind of made it worse.”

Bertina Combes, Vice Provost for Faculty Success, died on Feb. 19 due to COVID-19 complications. The university made a same-day announcement and held a Celebration of Life for Combes on March 9. Neither Etuk’s nor Combes’ deaths are recorded on the university’s COVID-19 update or case tracking pages. 

Etuk’s name was added to the university’s Fallen Eagles memorial page, dedicated to students who died while enrolled. The website notes the university flag at the Student Memorial Flag area of the south library lawn is lowered to half-mast for seven days after the Dean of Students Office is notified of the student’s passing.

Courtesy Jeff Ayisire 

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Ileana Garnand

Ileana Garnand

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