ESCC Working To Help Low Income Students Succeed
Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) is one of nineteen colleges nationally participating in an initiative entitled the Working Students Success Network (WSSN) which is sponsored by Achieving the Dream and funded by five national foundations: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and MetLife Foundation. “Achieving the Dream believes that access to a high quality education in an inclusive environment is the right of all individuals and imperative for the continued advancement of a strong democracy and workforce. Our growing network of community colleges across the country improves student success for more than 4 million students. We are a catalyst for providing ways for colleges to strengthen and build their capacity to ensure that more students complete their college education and have more opportunity for economic success.” (http://achievingthedream.org/) Four key areas for the WSSN initiative are community engagement, financial literacy, student-centered supports, and workforce preparation. (http://achievingthedream.org/resources/initiatives/working-students-success-network)
ESCC was one of sixteen colleges originally funded in 2014 after a rigorous application process. In part, ESCC was awarded due to the significant work it was already doing with local community partnerships and a team of academic and career coaches who work alongside students to assist them with academic and career success. The focus on financial literacy and public benefits access was very much in alignment with ESCC’s active involvement with Community Partners of the Eastern Shore (CPES) and the Navy Mid-Atlantic Federal Credit Union. The mission of CPES is to develop, sustain, and coordinate a comprehensive network of area service providers to support individuals and families of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The vision is to equip and empower individuals and families to achieve and maintain stability and self-sufficiency. Their website is available here http://www.cpesva.org/ .
ESCC has been working with community partners to provide students with non-academic supports that will increase the likelihood of academic success. Since WSSN promotes the importance of having a sustainable living wage and moving from poverty to self-sufficiency, the active partnerships between ESCC and area service providers works to aid students in reaching their goals and having greater financial wellbeing. The ability to maintain stability and self-sufficiency are enhanced when students receive the support services needed while completing their programs of study. For instance, students who may be in need of housing, employment, health insurance, or food have the opportunity to receive information about area jobs and service providers and are provided with support in accessing these services.
The Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore has been a strong ally in the efforts to reduce food insecurity and hunger among college students and their families. Through WSSN, ESCC and the Foodbank have partnered to provide a monthly mobile food pantry service on campus that is available to students. This led to the development of an on-site food pantry that provides students with nourishment when they are without. Reducing hunger and increasing thinking power is one of many ways that ESCC supports students and links them to vital services in the community.
ESCC will continue to enhance and expand services that benefit students and help them achieve their academic and career goals. Grant initiatives such as WSSN are instrumental in keeping the college on the cutting edge of how best to support students and prevent them from stopping out due to barriers that come from financial pressures, limited resources, and unexpected hurdles. Financial and consumer education along with financial aid and emergency scholarships all play a key role in student persistence and completion, thereby, creating a stronger workforce with greater economic impact.
ESCC is a part of an ongoing effort in supporting student success including hunger awareness and an on-campus food pantry with the Foodbank of the E.S.