WINSTON-SALEM (March 3, 2022) – Life just happens to many community college students. Many have jobs. Some have children. Some have unreliable cars. Some don’t have a computer. Some need to put down security deposits. Some can’t afford groceries.
Forsyth Tech Cares is an effort Forsyth Technical Community College launched in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic to give its students and their families support with those challenges.
“When March of 2020 rolled around and the world changed, our students were in crisis – and we knew we had to react. We had to support our students,” Stacy Waters-Bailey, Associate Vice President for Academic Strategy & Partnerships at Forsyth Tech, says in the accompanying video.
“Whatever it was that the student was needing assistance with, we knew at that moment that we had to jump in and help students.”
The college assembled a team of volunteers to answer calls and emails and help students one by one with their challenges. Some didn’t have a laptop to use for remote classes, she says. Some couldn’t find baby formula.
Later, a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust helped the college establish an office with three “care navigators” to help students work through their non-academic challenges.
Many needed help with technology or child care. And yes, food.
“Food insecurity is a major issue with our students,” Waters-Bailey says.
The college now has four food pantries on its campuses. In addition to food staples, they provide toiletries, personal care items, school supplies, detergent and even pet food.
“We’ve paid for car engines. We’ve paid for transmissions to be put in cars,” Waters-Bailey says. “We’ve paid for security deposits for rent and utilities. Many times our students might have a little bit of money to get what they need, but not the full amount, so we can step in.”
Forsyth Tech Cares has important partnerships with Second Harvest food bank and even with Wake Forest University’s legal clinic to provide non-criminal legal advice for students.
“We do believe that if they feel like they have support, and they feel like there’s somebody in their corner that can help them and be an advocate for them … that goes a long way in the classroom in terms of being successful,” Waters-Bailey says.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re there for our students, but we’re also there for their families,” she says.
Waters-Bailey notes that the entire family makes sacrifices when a spouse or parent goes to school.
“It is a true sacrifice for not only the student but the family as well,” she says. “So we want to be able to help ease that burden, that stress, and allow them to spend that time focused on school and their family.”