FARMINGTON – San Juan College is putting the finishing touches on a new program designed to provide students with training in life skills and connect them with community resources to help them graduate.
The tentatively titled Center for Working Families program was established as part of a series of grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to help low-income students stay in school and earn their degree or certificate by providing them with college and community resources.
The college has received about $750,000 in grants to develop the program and fund operations for three years. Students will receive help locating organizations in the community that will address their issues, including housing, transportation, and providing food and day care. The center also will organize workshops to teach financial literacy and life skills, Director Ceceilia Tso said.
Tso said people struggling with poverty easily can become overwhelmed and get stuck. She hopes the new program can help students gain confidence by providing support throughout their college career.
“This is about empowering students,” Tso said.
“It’s not just about providing resources but really empowering the students to be successful students. That’s what we want.”
Student Chrishana Johnson said the college currently doesn’t have services like those the program will offer and has talked to students about how the center can help them.
Johnson has been volunteering with Tso at the center, learning the course materials to help run one of the 10-week workshops next year.
“There are students I have personally referred over here,” Johnson said. “I just told them to talk to (Tso) about whatever they are going through.”
Part of the program calls for the staff to be in continual contact with students and the community organizations that have formed an advisory committee to help the program.
Sara Kaynor, executive director of the Echo Food Bank, said nonprofit organizations, including her own, are a key component of the program and will help students overcome the barriers that keep them from staying in school and finishing their degree. The food bank will establish a food pantry in the program’s office on campus.