Correction: Lisa Black was incorrectly identified. She is a social work professor.
Resource center is staffed with interns to help needy students get benefits.
By Christy Romero
Sociology Professor Lisa Black and criminal justice Professor Tiffany Cox have started an anti-poverty program at this college to help fill students’ economic needs such as help with paying rent and electricity bills.
The free service resource center they established opened this semester in Room 323 of Chance Academic Center, Cox explained Aug. 31.
”It’s starting out as a new initiative, which we hope will become a culture here at the college of meeting students’ immediate needs for them so they can be successful in the classroom,” Cox said.
The college faculty take ownership of their students and notice the change in attitude or grades can be affected by their life outside of class, Cox said.
“If they’re worried about paying their light bill payment, they’re not going to be able to focus. If they have to work night shifts and come directly to school in the morning, they’re not going to do well in class,” she said.
“Our idea is to address these issues for students on our campus who are struggling with the effects of poverty to make sure they succeed and focus on being a student.” Cox said.
Social work interns with bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Texas State University and Our Lady of the Lake University, working under the supervision of Black, listen to what students say their needs are and help them meet those needs.
Students will fill out documents for state basic needs support such as food and nutrition services like Women, Infants Children and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits with the help of a social work intern, Cox said.
This is more effective than just giving students a list of resources and setting them off on their own to figure out,” Cox said.
They can also refer students to resources in the community that could provide help making an electricity or rent payment.
Although services like WIC and TANF take time to process, this program will also help with immediate needs provided locally, such as Food Bank distributions, Black said Sept. 6.
In the future, across the hallway will be a food pantry and a clothing closet for any student on campus who needs food or clothes. The clothes will be “campus attire,” which is casual wear to formal attire like outfits for meetings and casual interviews.
“We are partnering with Magic Closet across the street from the college for professional clothing students would need for job interviews,” Cox said.
The Magic Closet collects used professional clothing and provides it to lower-income women and others who need clothing for job interviews. It is sponsored by Network Power Texas.
They are working to get the food pantry and clothing closet up later this semester or in the spring, Black said.
Black said the cost to the college of the anti-poverty efforts has not been determined.
The women’s empowerment center at this college also helps college students succeed with a Mi Casa program. However, those resources are limited to students who have women’s center advisers. The social work program is open to all students, Black explained.
A student assistant who works for Black discussed the efforts behind the program.
“This project is like our little baby. We are working hard on it and we are not going to let it go down,” communications sophomore Raven Vasquez said. “We want this program to expand. It affects the students and faculty as well.”
A graduate intern at Our Lady of the Lake described what she does as an intern.
“We go through the process of being mentored and doing intake of forms and assessment,” Tamla Phillips said. “Students need help. When you come here, you see the need already waiting on you. Financial aid is not enough for some students.”
To seek benefits from the anti-poverty program, students can go to Room 323 in Chance 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday-Friday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. the first Saturday of every month.