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District prioritizes student success

Students across the district can rest easy knowing their college has their back.

Opinion by Cassandra Nava, Managing Editor

Psychology major Metztli Moreno, 40, enjoys lunch with the Puente Club during Warm Meal Wednesdays at the Basic Needs Center. The center provides meals and groceries for students. (Photo by Chris Dreadson/The Valley Star)

The LACCD’s student-based aid initiatives are fostering community; closing the equity gap previously held by marginalized groups.

Wraparound services are needs-based, focused on addressing problems before or as they occur. At Valley College, Monarchs are able to take advantage of a myriad of benefits, from food distributions to free childcare. The elimination of third party assistance allows for students to focus on the core values of education, while being able to utilize the college as a one-stop shop. By creating helpful initiatives, the individual can thrive. The community itself becomes stronger as a whole when program directors and staff can visibly see their efforts poured into multiple success stories.

Valley’s Family Resource Center and Child Development Center are prime examples of services that enable a successful experience with higher education. The CDC offers free child care to students, emphasizing their continued support for single mothers looking to transfer or graduate.

Nursing major Gulnoza Kamilova took advantage of both centers, citing their amenities as a great asset.

“Both are very good resources,” said Kamilova. “The CDC was taking care of my kids and the FRC was buying books and diapers and anything to help my finances.”

By offering free necessities to a student like Kamilova, Valley can ensure the academic success of nontraditional students who might otherwise fall short of completing their degree. She was able to focus on one less financial burden among the costs of textbooks and courses, coupled with personal budgets like rent and food.

The Basic Needs Center on campus once included a pantry that was open to students and the community as a whole, handing out organic produce and canned goods twice a week. Due to lack of funding amidst a global pandemic, the pantry closed its doors — but offered help by distributing gift cards to grocery stores in 2020. The center’s counselor/coordinator Juan Castellanos is working to bring back free food distributions every Thursday. The initiative is just one way to ensure that Monarchs in need are nourished in more than just education.

The California Community College system’s support is part of an effort to put an end to disproportionate impact, an issue among students whose academic success is hindered by inequitable practices and policies. Typically, the students affected are those of lower income groups or historically underrepresented groups such as African American, Latino and American Indian students. Focusing on groups in need is one way to tailor support to what colleges actually need, rather than blindly funding pre-existing programs.

"We look for what are we doing at Valley that's causing one group of students to not be as successful as another group, and how can we change our practices to ensure that we eliminate those disproportionate impacts,” said Valley President Barry Gribbons. “There's no group of students that shows disproportionate impact across all measures.”

Programs for specialized groups such as Black students, Chicano students, Veterans or disabled students have a trove of aid that can be tapped into, along with offering a group setting for like-minded individuals to share stories of struggles and successes.

Last November, voters passed Measure LA, the LACCD’s most recent bond of $5.3 billion. Along with modernizations to buildings and campuses, technology and sustainability measures, there is $500 million allotted for student housing.

The district has not currently approved any motions pushing the ambitious idea forward. When and if housing becomes available to students, the LACCD will have completed integrating the nine colleges into fully functioning communities for students across the county.

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