Students facing financial hardships can receive aid through grants and programs

In the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, students attending Edmonds College need more support than ever. Many have recently found themselves unemployed, struggling to afford tuition, housing and even food all at once. Not having a stable living situation is a scary place to be in. 

Thankfully, a variety of programs at Edmonds College are offering support. 

“Edmonds College is in the lead when it comes to serving our students,” according to Jorge de la Torre, the Dean for Student Success/Student Engagement. “When it comes to other community colleges in the state, I really think we’ve always been at the forefront of that, and we really take pride in that.”

In Jan 2020, Edmonds College was awarded a Supporting Students Experiencing Homeless grant and a Student Emergency Assistance Grant. The purpose of these grants is to assist students, especially with the recent pandemic, but the requirements and assistance are slightly different. 

The SSEH grant gives students access to essentials, and allows them to receive laundry vouchers, gift cards, and showers at the Seaview Gym. According to Jason Dunbar, the Campus and Community Resource Navigator, who works for the college through a partnership with the Jean-Kim Foundation, there are two categories for the homeless students: homeless and unable to get shelter, and students who have aged out of foster care. 

For the SEAG grant the criteria is simple: if you are a currently enrolled student taking classes, and requiring assistance with essential needs, you may qualify. For students that are interested, the application process is fully online through the Edmonds College website. According to Kama Lemay, a CARE coordinator at Edmonds College, after students submit their online application they will be contacted for a brief phone interview with a CARE coordinator, and get help determining possible resources for them. 

Edmonds College has also been given 1.44 million dollars from the Federal CARES Act, which assists students with struggles relating to COVID-19. 

Christina Castorena, the Vice President of Student Services, said “As of May 13, 2020, 488 students have been awarded CARES Act emergency grants, for a total disbursed of $486,000.” Castoena also says that the CARES Act will continue to provide assistance to students throughout spring quarter, and the upcoming summer and fall quarter.

Before COVID-19, Dunbar would attend community meals, along with visiting libraries, parks, and even street corners to connect with the homeless population. These interactions allowed Dunbar to build relationships with them. Dunbar works to build relationships with people, and help them determine what they want to do. “I’m really strong in community services, and being able to refer people to different things, and how to navigate social services,” said Dunbar. 

One of the programs offered at Edmonds College for a while is the food pantry. Before COVID-19, the food pantry was located upstairs in the Brier building, but recently it has been moved to the Seaview Gym. This made for easier social distancing by not having lots of students inside a building, and gave access to the locker rooms and showers in the Seaview Gym.

The food pantry has been moved to the aerobics room in the Seaview Gym, where students are let in one at a time to fill their bags with food. De la Torre also shared that the number of students utilizing the food pantry has dramatically changed. The usual amount was between 100-150, and there is now about 30-35 a week.

“We think it is important to keep it going for the 30 that need it,” said de la Torre.  “Hopefully word will get out. We have students that are accessing showers too, so we think it has been worth the time and effort for sure.” 

All the services for students are following the federal and state social distancing guidelines. According to de la Torre, students are allowed in one at a time, and have to stand six-feet away from the people working, which is indicated by a line on the floor. The same protocol is used for the shower hours. Students are allowed to use the Seaview Gym showers one at a time, along with going into the locker rooms one at a time.

“We clean before, we clean after, we clean during. Everyone is wearing gloves, everyone has to do the social distancing. We are very cautious that everyone is following state and federal guidelines and being safe,” said de la Torre. 

De la Torre also wanted to make sure the staff and faculty helping out at the food pantry gets acknowledgement. “Special shoutout to Paul Cody. He’s the student who is working the pantry three days a week,” said de la Torre, while also voicing an appreciation for Jason Dunbar and Stewart Sinning, the program manager for the Center of Student Engagement and Leadership.