All five colleges in the Alamo Colleges District now have resource centers to meet the needs of low-income students.
St. Philip’s College celebrated the opening of its Safe Space Student Advocacy Center Thursday.
During the ceremony, St. Philip’s College student Marissa Arredondo said the center’s food pantry and grab and go snacks help her navigate life and school.
“Taking on a full load of classes while working a part-time job I struggle to make lunch, and at time I even struggle to afford groceries,” Arredondo said.
Arredondo works at the front desk of the center as a work study job, and said she also sees the difference it makes in other students’ lives.
In addition to the food pantry, the center has free mental health services and crisis counselors to help students who are struggling with housing or domestic violence. Students can also apply for emergency grants to pay for expenses like car tires or utility bills.
The center is located on the first floor of the Sutton Learning Center at St. Philip’s. It started out as the offices for Title IX and disability services and expanded over the last year to include the food pantry and other services.
“In January of this year we officially opened our doors and started providing services. And then this summer we expanded and completed the partnership with the food bank, and now we’re rocking and rolling,” said Liz Castillo, director of student services.
St. Philip’s College President Adena Williams Loston said the center’s goal is to support students so they can stay in school.
“Education is but one of the competing priorities in their lives,” Loston said. “They need additional support (other) than just coming here and taking classes.”
In addition to stocking the food pantries at St. Philip’s, Palo Alto, Northwest Vista, Northeast Lakeview and San Antonio College, San Antonio Food Bank said Thursday that it is hiring a full-time food specialist for each college’s advocacy center.
San Antonio Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper said the specialists will help students apply for federal assistance programs like SNAP and WIC.
“All of those programs that are available that often times aren’t received just because they don’t understand them and the process of applying is difficult,” Cooper said.
“It’s just heartbreaking when you think of students not getting to graduation because life happens, and students that need to meet those basic needs are kept from graduation because they’re hungry.”
Cooper said the food bank also expects to provide the food pantries at the Alamo Colleges with $1.5 million worth of food this year through donations from farmers, manufacturers and grocery stores.