An On-Campus Safety Net

Posted March 31, 2013, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

When Stephen was just 17, his fos­ter moth­er died. She’d been pro­vid­ing him finan­cial sup­port, love and guid­ance all his life. After she died, Stephen lost his way. One day, he hap­pened to meet a reporter who lis­tened to his sto­ry. He told her he hoped to become a chef. She intro­duced him to Gate­way Com­mu­ni­ty College’s Coor­di­na­tor of Hos­pi­tal­i­ty Man­age­ment Pro­grams who helped Stephen enroll, guid­ing him through the admis­sions process, course selec­tion and the finan­cial aid application.

Stephen still felt adrift. He had no place to live, no job or food. The only clothes he had were the ones he was wear­ing. The coor­di­na­tor referred him to Gate­way Com­mu­ni­ty College’s Cen­ter for Stu­dents and Fam­i­lies (CFS), a pro­gram fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion. Because he was a stu­dent at Gate­way, Stephen was pro­vid­ed with cloth­ing, hous­ing, rental assis­tance, a food vouch­er and a bus pass. The cen­ter also assist­ed him in find­ing a job. With­out the cen­ter, Stephen says he does not know where he would be today.

With the help of Gateway Community College's Center for Students and Families, Stephen found work, housing and other support.

The Casey Foun­da­tion focus­es on vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions such as fam­i­lies liv­ing in com­mu­ni­ties of con­cen­trat­ed pover­ty, sin­gle par­ents, unem­ployed and under-skilled per­sons, and young peo­ple who are tran­si­tion­ing out of the fos­ter sys­tem. A col­lege degree — with inte­grat­ed work­force, income and finan­cial ser­vice sup­ports — can pro­vide a dif­fer­ent path­way toward a bet­ter life. But for many young peo­ple who grew up in the fos­ter sys­tem that can be elu­sive. Nation­al­ly, less than 4 per­cent of young peo­ple who grow up in fos­ter care grad­u­ate from col­lege; in Con­necti­cut, just 8 per­cent do. In Connecticut, 

stu­dents must leave fos­ter care at age 21 and are often thrust into mak­ing inde­pen­dent life deci­sions such as pay­ing rent, util­i­ty and food bills, pro­vid­ing per­son­al care, cloth­ing, and nav­i­gat­ing col­lege life. The Casey Foun­da­tion works with Gate­way to pro­vide new oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents like Stephen who face a brac­ing chal­lenge when seek­ing an edu­ca­tion, work and housing.

CFS is an on-cam­pus safe­ty net for stu­dents at risk of with­draw­ing from or fail­ing class­es because of unful­filled aca­d­e­m­ic achieve­ment and in

suf­fi­cient finan­cial and famil­ial sup­port. It pro­vides aca­d­e­m­ic advis­ing, career plan­ning, emer­gency finan­cial assis­tance, tutor­ing, men­tor­ing, pre-employ­ment train­ing and assis­tance in enrolling for ben­e­fits, among a host of oth­er services.

We pro­vide inte­grat­ed sup­ports that in turn teach stu­dents how to become self-suf­fi­cient and self-advo­cates,” said Cen­ter Direc­tor James M. Boger. Stephen learned how to advo­cate for him­self. A com­mu­ni­ty col­lege edu­ca­tion is a tick­et to a bet­ter life. The whole process opened up a new world to him.”

Today, Stephen is enrolled in GCC’s Culi­nary Arts and Food Ser­vice Man­age­ment pro­grams and is sched­uled to grad­u­ate in 2014 with an Asso­ciate Degree in Food Ser­vice Man­age­ment as well as a Cer­tifi­cate in Culi­nary Arts. He works two jobs, one on the Gate­way cam­pus. He has his own apart­ment and he cred­its CFS with teach­ing him how to man­age his mon­ey. He says Gate­way pro­vid­ed the sta­bil­i­ty and guid­ance he need­ed to move for­ward. Where he once felt alone, he now has many peo­ple to turn to. He says the strug­gle to get to where he ulti­mate­ly wants to go con­tin­ues, but he has gained the self-con­fi­dence, self-aware­ness and deter­mi­na­tion to get there.

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