MODESTO, Calif. — A community college in Modesto is getting a major boost in their effort to help homeless students after landing a $700,000 grant.
The grant is expected to help Modesto Junior College's homeless and housing insecure students find shelter. It's one of only 14 community colleges in the state to be a part of the pilot program.
"I think with the grant funding. we could possibly do a deeper dive into how to better identify these students, how to get students to come forth, and setting up the programs for them to feel comfortable to come forth," said Dr. Ashley Griffith, Dean of Student Services.
Both Griffith and Flerida Arias, Vice President of Student Services, say the money can help boost the programs and resources the school is already offering.
Arias said the college did a student survey about five years ago where students identified both food and housing insecurity as their top issues. Since then, they've responded with a food pantry, free lunch days, housing navigators, and talks with housing authorities to find places for students.
The college knows it has housing insecure students, but the challenge has mostly been in finding them. Many students at MJC find themselves below the poverty line, and about 85% find themselves using some sort of financial aid, Arias said.
Griffith added that these students can experience insecurities, but they won't always be forthcoming on the issues.
"A lot of students are just trying to work to figure it out on their own and not necessarily knowing where to go on campus to find the support," Griffith said.
She added that MJC finds out about these situations sporadically, usually when students meet with counselors. However, Arias says these moments also make opportunities to get their resources into the student community.
She said the college was limited by funding before, but, with the grant, the money will let them ramp up the programs.
One of the focuses is the "Reentry Success Network," a program for previously incarcerated students. Griffith said that students in this group often have a need to find work to support their families.
Keeping students like them in school to finish their classes and maintain grades will be a big a metric for success. Part of that effort has to do with connecting them to resources that can either help them find a place to stay or launch them into careers where housing insecurity would no longer be an issue.
"If we can do this now on a temporary basis, be that bridge — the stabilizer for students — I really believe that we can catapult them into a whole different reality," Arias said.
In 2019, the #RealCollege Survey found 19% of respondents said they were homeless at some point in the previous year and 60% said they experienced housing insecurity. The College Homeless and Housing Insecure Pilot Program identified 14 colleges to get three-year grants.
The 14 colleges are:
- Antelope Valley College- $700,000
- Barstow College- $500,000
- Butte College- $700,000
- Cerritos College- $700,000
- Gavilan College- $500,000
- Imperial Valley College- $700,000
- Long Beach City College- $700,000
- Los Angeles Southwest College- $700,000
- College of the Redwoods- $500,000
- Riverside City College- $700,000
- San Diego City College- $600,000
- Fresno City College- $700,000
- Victor Valley College- $700,000
- Modesto Junior College- $700,000
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