Freshman finds beauty in struggle with help of advocacy center

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Social work sophomore Gerardo Martinez stocks shelves at The Store, managed by the student advocacy center, in Room 326 of Chance. Although the San Antonio Food Bank donates items to The Store, Martinez said, “Students really build this thing up.” Eligible individuals can visit The Store twice a month for food and clothing, and once a month for hygiene products. File

Students can access food and clothing after filling out two forms.

By Victoria Lee Zamora

Cyber security freshman Elizabeth Deluna, 19, says she isn’t poor. She just needs help.

That’s what drove her to take advantage of this college’s student advocacy center for food, clothing and personal hygiene products beginning in February.

“I don’t know what you consider being poor is, but I know that I don’t fall under that category,” she said March 28. “I am very fortunate for the things that I have and the roof over my head.” 

As Deluna clipped on her H-E-B name tag while running on four hours of sleep, she sat on the floor of her Tobin Lofts apartment looking close to defeated.

“I want to throw in the towel, find a job that pays well and live my life not struggling like the way I am now,” she said.

Her hazel eyes glistened as she said, “But there is beauty in the struggle. I know that everything I am going through now will definitely be worth it when I cross that stage and get my degree that I have been working so hard for.” Elizabeth works 40 hours a week as a checker at H-E-B while being a full-time student at this college. Living with three roommates in the on-campus apartment complex, she pushes herself to make ends meet.

“Sometimes, what I’m doing isn’t enough. I work full time, save and budget as much as I can, but it’s not enough. It never is,” she said.

She supports herself on a $10-an-hour salary.

Her rent is $600, which includes furniture, electricity, water and Wi-Fi. On top of rent, she pays for her cell phone and puts money aside for bus fare or Uber because she does not own a vehicle.

As Deluna packed a homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she said, “Money does not grow on trees. This last paycheck after paying bills I was left with $32.44 to live off of until my next paycheck.”

Flustered, she said eating Top Ramen and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches gets tiresome.

Deluna does not qualify for financial aid. She had no choice but to find a way to support herself.

“I honestly wish I could live back with my parents,” she said. “To have that support would make my college experience far more enjoyable.”

There comes a time when asking for help is the only option, she said. “I’m not one to depend on anyone,” she said. “I hustle and make it on my own always. When I heard about the advocacy center, I didn’t know if I would qualify for that kind of help.”

The Store was established in fall 2016 by social work Professor Lisa Black. “We know students are struggling. Faculty and staff members see it everyday. This college’s main focus is not just on academics. We care about the well-being of our students.”

The program initially started off with four interns and now the advocacy center has 10.

“This program benefits everybody who attends this college, even the faculty. Everyone goes through financial crises,” Black said April 11.

Applying to qualify for the services takes no more than 20 minutes, Black said.

“Regardless if you make more than $22,000, which is the food bank’s guidelines to qualify, not SAC’s, we don’t turn anyone away who needs help,” she said

Deluna said getting food and other items there is quick and easy. “The center has a food pantry called The Store, case management services and a clothing closet,” she said.

Social work sophomore Gerardo “Jerry” Martinez, who is interning at the advocacy center, is familiar with students who come in and get what they need.

“Fridays are typically our busiest days. We normally see about 10 students throughout the day,” he said April 6. “All college students need help, and the fact that we can provide them with food and clothes could be reason they continue to pursue a college degree.”

The store restocks Tuesday mornings with donations from the San Antonio Food Bank. Donations from anyone are welcome throughout the week, Martinez said.

“The first items to go are the vegetable items, along with our meat selection,” he said.

Deluna goes twice a month for food. Each trip supplies her enough food for about 2 ½ weeks.

“They have snacks like chips and popcorn but also ground turkey and frozen vegetables, so I can definitely make a meal for myself,” she said.

She gets clothing once a month.

The selection may not be the “trendiest” but jeans and T-shirts are what Deluna grabs.

“I know this part of my life isn’t permanent,” she said. “I am very thankful for SAC’s advocacy center.”

She plans to continue getting help from the advocacy center and encourages other students who are “in the struggle” to not feel ashamed or embarrassed.

The student advocacy center in Room 323 of Chance Academic Center is open 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 the month. Students who qualify can pick out two bags of food and one bag of clothing twice each month.

For more information, call 210-486-1003.


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