Posted:August 27, 2018
At Century College and beyond, success relies upon resilience. But some students face greater challenges than others. Some students find themselves with three kids and without a home, short on money, and in need of food and clothing. Some students need more than resilience; they need support.
The Resource and Support Center, established in 2016, gives these students the helping hand they need.
By partnering with community organizations such as Christian Cupboard and Woody’s Clothes Closet, the Resource and Support Center is able to provide free food and clothing to students and their children.
Students also have access to services including financial management, housing, legal assistance, mental health resources, parent services, healthcare enrollment, and help in applying for scholarships.
“I believe that in order for students to succeed, they have to feel like they belong,” said Michele Jersak, a counselor at the Resource and Support Center. “I love to be part of creating a space where students feel safe and supported.”
For Donnita Williams, a recent Century College graduate with a degree in Criminal Justice, the services at the Resource and Support Center were vital.
The center helped Williams, a single parent of two children, attain daycare services, food, clothing, housing, and a mentor/tutor for her daughter at the Harriet Tubman Center.
Williams credits the Resource and Support Center for her success as a student. Thanks to the support she received, Williams’ grades improved significantly.
“It’s like home,” said Williams. “If there’s something wrong, somebody’s always there to help me figure out the problem. I got so used to it, I actually feel homesick.”
Similarly, current Century College student Cha Vue found a second home at Century College. Because of the financial and time constraints that come with raising three children and working full-time, she doesn’t always have the means to prepare meals for herself.
“Being able to come to the resource center when you’re low on money and get a quick meal for the day really helps a lot,” said Vue.
The support Vue receives goes beyond meals. Vue, who is studying Nursing, visits the Resource and Support Center often for life advice, help with schoolwork, or just to hang out.
The impact of the Resource and Support Center is perhaps most apparent in the story of Century College student Carla Coates. Coates grew up homeless, living on couches throughout her childhood. Due to the severity of her circumstances, Coates was forced to drop out of high school in 9th grade.
“I was in a very unstable, abusive environment. It was a living nightmare,” said Coates. “But I got through it, and now I see the light; I’m grateful to be around wonderful people.”
Coates always dreamed of being a doctor. But due to significant head trauma caused by years of physical abuse in her childhood and past marriages, she did not have the ability to study as she needed to. Coates suffers from forgetfulness, memory loss, and balance problems.
“It’s tough, but I have to be strong for myself and for my children,” said Coates. “I hope to inspire people too.”
Because of her desire to help others, Coates decided to pursue a degree in Human Services.
“I just love helping people. I love seeing people happy,” said Coates
More than just Services
When Carla Coates discovered the Resource and Support Center, she was living in a homeless shelter and receiving $28 dollars per month in food stamps. She didn’t have much money to feed her three children, let alone herself. At the Resource and Support Center, Coates was provided with food and help in maintaining a healthy diet.
The guidance and support Coates received from staff also had a huge impact on her. After facing a hostage situation that left her traumatized, Coates credits the Resource and Support Center for helping her cope.
“It was more than just services. To me, it was like therapy. Michele and the staff were just so awesome. They helped me through so many different obstacles,” said Coates. “I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t there for me. I probably would have given up.”
Thanks to the help of the Resource and Support Center, Coates is chasing her dreams. She only has to complete three more classes to graduate, and plans on transferring to a four-year institution to get her B.A. degree in Human Services. She is also working to get into a house of her own for the first time in her life.
“The support from Century College has been very critical for me,” said Coates. “I felt like I was going to crumble at any moment. I thank everyone there for keeping me together and holding me up.”