In an effort to help students fulfill basic needs, Orange Coast College launched OCC Cares — a page on the school website that links to services including childcare, financial assistance and homelessness resources.
OCC Cares as a tab on the college’s website is only the beginning of a larger effort to help support students with basic needs, Student Equity Coordinator and Homelessness Liaison Maricela Sandoval said. The landing page reminds students that the college is indeed concerned about their wellbeing and success, and includes a list of on-campus and community resources on issues including immigration, food insecurity and healthcare.
“More than a program or campaign, OCC Cares is really meant to set the stage for a true value that exists on campus that we’re a [school] that cares and that wants to do what we need to do to help support our students,” Sandoval said.
The online page will be updated later to include more links to resources and separate landing pages with details to specific issues, such as student homelessness, Sandoval said. Sandoval is working with the Student Equity department and the college on further expanding OCC Cares as a fuller resource easily accessible to all students in need.
Forty-six percent of community college students nationally are experiencing housing insecurity this year and 42 percent are food insecure, according to a survey conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, which researches the challenges low-income students face in secondary education.
Services for homeless students at OCC include priority enrollment — which was part of a 2016 amendment to Senate Bill 906 — and access to on-campus showers in the sports facility locker rooms. The homelessness services section of OCC Cares also includes community shelters and laundry facilities, which will both be updated later with hyperlinks to off campus resources.
“What it’s about is helping students who are especially at the most risk, whether it be a food challenge, or problems with childcare, or immigration… to give them a one-stop shop, hopefully make the pathway easier for them and keep them in school so they can meet their goals,” Doug Bennett, the executive director of college advancement for OCC said.
This initiative arose at the college’s administrative level when the issue of food insecurity among students was raised by faculty members and coaches and the idea of the food pantry was pursued, Bennett said. Then, Bennett and other college faculty and administrators learned about the issue on both a local and national level.
Sandoval and Bennett both emphasized that the college is always looking for ways to help students ease the potential difficulties of the college experience, and always serve their students in the most need.
“One of the mottos the college has is ‘we’ll help you get there,’” Bennett said. “Sometimes that’s helping in the classroom, but it’s also making sure you have the other services, within reason. You need to succeed in college.”