Center hopes to help with public-assistance applications

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Social work program Coordinator Lisa Black leads the Service Learning Orientation for Student Advocacy Jan. 28 at Chance. The students, faculty and interns learned about volunteer opportunites at the center’s food pantry. The food pantry provides college families with access to canned goods and materials for meal preparation. Photo by Noah Acevedo.

Services include food pantry, clothing closet and case management.

By Ashley Bailey

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

The Student Advocacy Center at this college is working on getting state certified so students, faculty and staff in need can apply for public assistance programs directly from the college, said social work program Coordinator Lisa Black, who co-founded the center.

Those programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Service; and Medicaid.

The center in Room 323 of Chance Academic Center is a nonprofit social service for students, staff and faculty going through socioeconomic hardship.

Opened in September 2016, it has a food pantry, clothing closet and book voucher program. Last semester’s food drive generated more than $1,000 worth of donated food. Since that event was a success, the food pantry expanded, getting ceiling-high shelves installed to provide more storage for donations.

Vanesa Cruz, graduate intern from Our Lady of the Lake University, discusses the importance of social work with social work major Jhocelyn Lopez and the rest of her group at the Service Learning Orientation for Student Advocacy Jan. 28 at Chance. The meeting was a free learning orientation for anyone interested in volunteering at the Student Advocacy Center’s food pantry and understanding how the center works. Photo by Noah Acevedo.

As of January 2017, the center was staffed by a mix of volunteers, nine interns, four work-studies and a part-time temp.

The staff provides case management services and connects students, staff and faculty to public assistance programs and other financial resources.

Most public assistance programs require individuals to submit paperwork and go through several steps in the application process, which can become complicated, especially if the person applying for public assistance has never done it before, Black said.

“We have people come in and fill out a form to determine their current situation,” work-study Shakira Shannon said. “After that, we provide information on programs and resources that the person qualifies for.”

Anyone interested in public assistance or in need of an advocate should call to schedule an appointment. The phone number is 210-486-1003.

The food pantry allows individuals to take up to two free items twice a month.

Additionally, anyone on campus in need of clothes can visit the clothing closet to get a gently used business casual outfit for free.

Last fall, the college granted the student advocacy center $1,500 to start an anti-poverty campaign to help reduce poverty on campus.

Black and her students conducted a survey on campus and found that out of 1,600 students, 44 percent are food insecure and 25 percent are severely food insecure.

Being food insecure is defined as “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” according to oxforddictionaries.com.

Students who are hungry, homeless, lack transportation, don’t have daycare, don’t have clothes or don’t have books will find it hard to learn and have a much higher chance of dropping out, Black said.

“It’s not pot, it’s poverty that’s keeping kids from graduating,” Black said.

Once a student loses affordable access to a basic necessity like food, the student has a much higher chance of not graduating.

“If you want to keep kids in school then they need to feel financially secure,” Black said.

The center hosted a “Fill The Store” drive Feb. 6-9 to collect nonperishable food items such as cereal, boxed pasta, rice and peanut butter as well as hygiene items, feminine products and gently used clothes and shoes.

The center also accepts donations during its regular hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m-5 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m-1 p.m. the first Saturday of every month in Room 323 of Chance.

“With more donations, we can help more people,” said work-study DiDi Cuellar.

“So many people have already visited the food pantry and clothing closet this semester,” Cuellar said.

For more information, call 210-486-1003.

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