Unwavering Commitment to Breaking Poverty and College Attainment

In every team and department at Northwest Vista College, there are always great stories to tell that show faculty and staff going above and beyond.

While it’s hard to capture every story, we hope to periodically share in this space some of the major accomplishments or projects that are taking place. Members of the executive team will write about important topics that they feel NVC employees should be made aware of.

Let us know about the positive things your area is doing to help students or improve processes by contacting myself or NVC Marketing & Strategic Communications.

– Dr. Ric Baser, NVC President

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Debi Gaitan
Vice President of Student Success

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Edward Everett Hale

Northwest Vista College has celebrated 27+ years of student-centered innovation and can-do spirit. As we brace for the long-term impact of COVID-19 and declining enrollment in community colleges across the nation, let us be unwavering about our commitment to break the cycles of intergenerational poverty and low-college credential attainment in our city.

San Antonio remains the country’s poorest major metropolitan area, according to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau (Cunningham). Reports find the city’s Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by poverty (Baddour, A., Stone, E., & Cantu, E.). While facing this reality, together, we beckon our can-do spirt and remain strong and committed to student enrollment and success. We do this by leaning heavily into our high impact practices such as Alamo Promise and Student Advocacy and Resources.

Alamo Promise makes college more affordable and accessible for entering freshmen from participating high schools by providing the cost of tuition and required fees for up to three years or until the completion of an Associate’s degree, whichever comes first. In the fall of 2020, the Promise program launched and 219 John Jay and Holmes graduates became Promise Scholars. In the fall of 2021, another 271 Jay and Holmes graduates became Promise Scholars. This is a 23.7% increase from 2020 to 2021. In the fall of 2022, graduates from Marshall and Stevens high schools will be eligible for the Promise program. Enrollment projections for the fall of  2022, that include NVC’s four Promise schools, is 505.

Many of you may know that our Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan includes a Promise Scholars mentoring program that is in the development phase. If you are interested in helping to develop the program and/or become a Promise Scholar’s mentor please contact: Dean for Student Success Jennifer Comedy-Holmes jcomedy-holmes@alamo.edu or Dean for Academic Success Bobby Ayala rayala87@alamo.edu.

Student Advocacy at NVC has had many grassroots leaders such as Gary Bowling, NVC Student Success director, Migdalia Garcia, NVC academic program coordinator – Community Engagement, and Neil Lewis, NVC Humanities faculty. They, along with many other co-creators, worked diligently to support students while educating and encouraging the college to make student advocacy a central part of our mission and to become a poverty-informed institution.

Lisa Black, former San Antonio College (SAC) full time faculty and creator of the SAC Advocacy Center, joined the NVC team in the fall of 2019, as the director of Student Advocacy and the college launched our Student Advocacy and Resource Center, just months before the devastation of COVID-19 began.

In the fall of 2019 and again in 2020, NVC conducted a Student Financial Wellness Survey that provided insights about our student’s food and housing insecurities. In 2019 – 41%, and in 2020 – 49% of NVC student survey respondents showed signs of either low or very low food security. While 42% and 40% showed low or very low housing security respectively. The data shows that students who struggle with meeting basic needs like food, housing, and utilities are vulnerable to enrollment disruptions regardless of their academic ability or potential. The COVID-19 pandemic has created more financial strain and uncertainty, which may cause some students to delay or abandon their college dreams (Fletcher, C., Cornett, A., Niznik, A., Knaff, C., & Webster, J.).

NVC Student Advocacy data collected during the pandemic months show early signs of the model’s positive impact with full and part-time student’s in-term retention and persistence being higher for those who received support from the Student Advocacy and Resource Center. The results are promising given the fact that most students who visit the center are experiencing tremendous crisis and need for emergency assistance.

Student Advocacy and Resource Services include:

  • Case Management – supervised student interns pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work who braid their emerging expertise with that of public and private community services;
  • Mental Health Counseling – NVC counselors who support students and link them to NVC and community resources;
  • Food Access – NVC’s grocery store, pop-up markets, and Grab-n-Go;
  • Clothes Closet – donated gently worn clothing provided to students;
  • Emergency Aid – case managed awarding of federal funding, public grants, and private donors/Foundation grants; and
  • Wellness 360 Clinics – partnership with UT Health San Antonio to provide general medical assistance.

For additional information on the center’s data and/or how you can support NVC’s Student Advocacy and Resource Center please contact: Lisa Black, director of Student Advocacy lblack13@alamo.edu.

We see the reality of the impact of the pandemic and inequalities and we promise to continue to do all we can to eradicate the potential negative effect on our students, employees, and the community…together!

Resources

Cunningham, W. (2022, March 17). Census: San Antonio remains most impoverished major U.S. city despite some gains. San Antonio Report. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://sanantonioreport.org/census-san-antonio-most-impoverished-major-us-city/

Baddour, A., Stone, E., & Cantu, E. (2019). Insights, Aspirations, and Action. Asset Funders Network. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from https://assetfunders.org/wp-content/uploads/AFN_2019_SCAN-BOOKLET_WEB-1.pdf

Klepfer, K., Cornett, A., Fletcher, C., & Webster, J. (2019). Student Financial Wellness Survey. Trellis Company Research. V:\Student Success\Student Success – Area Files\Advocacy Center\Trellis Survey. PDF download.

Fletcher, C., Cornett, A., Niznik, A., Knaff, C., & Webster, J. (2020). Student Financial Wellness Survey. Trellis Company Research. V:\Student Success\Student Success – Area Files\Advocacy Center\Trellis Survey. PDF download.