New Advocacy Center Provides Wrap-Up Around Services

What is one way to get more students to earn an associate degree? Help them with their basic needs of food and shelter through the new advocacy services that the Alamo Colleges District recently launched at each of the colleges. These centers will help students with much needed resources such as food and getting emergency funding for housing or other crisis situations.

“Everything comes after food, shelter, and clothing … even college,” said Lisa Black, Northwest Vista College’s new director of Advocacy Services.

Just last year, 2,445 students from the Alamo Colleges participated in the 2018 #RealCollege Survey and 48% of respondents experienced food insecurity in the prior 30 days; another 59% of respondents experienced housing insecurity in the previous year; and 17% of respondents experienced homelessness in the previous year.

Also the Rivard Report published a September 2019 story saying San Antonio has the highest percentage (15.4%) of people living in poverty among the Top 25 most populous metropolitan areas, according to the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The previous year, Detroit was top of the list.

At Northwest Vista, students are now able to visit with Paul Mata, who is NVC’s liaison with the San Antonio Food Bank, to apply for public assistance and receive help with food. He can help students or community members fill out the lengthy application that links people with social services, such as Medicaid or SNAP (food benefits). The San Antonio Food Bank and Alamo Colleges are in the process of placing Cases Assistance Navigators, like Paul, at each of the Alamo Colleges campuses in the next few weeks. Northwest Vista is also working to get social work interns to help in the advocacy center to work with students and provide case management support.

Since last year, NVC has been providing emergency grants to students needing help to keep their lights on or prevent from being evicted or homeless. Last year, it also opened a Food Pantry, now called “The Store,” to help students. With Lisa and Paul’s arrival on campus, now NVC will be able to bring all its past efforts under “one roof.”

Since the opening of The Store, nearly 1,000 students have visited it with a record 355 students visiting in November. In the spring semester, about 144 students came to The Store, and 725 students came to the center from September to November. 

Lisa said having these holistic services for students is critical for success. “Our faculty are held to account for many outcomes, but often students come to class with issues that faculty can’t help with,” Lisa added. “Now, there’s a place to send students.”

Lisa said in the next few weeks, The Store will receive more upgrades, artwork and signage. Also by January, she hopes to have social work interns in place as well as an administrative assistant. To visit NVC’s Advocacy Center or the Food Pantry, go to first floor of Huisache Hall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *