AmeriCorps Empowers Students at Alma Mater

By United Way of King County, on March 16, 2018 | In Breaking the Cycle of Poverty, News

Layel is a current Benefits Hubs AmeriCorps member serving at South Seattle College. She is a former student there and has returned for this opportunity to give back to the community through her service. Here, she talks about her time with our Benefits Hubs. 

I joined AmeriCorps with United Way Benefits Hubs because I saw the importance of students learning how to be financially self-sufficient.

In 2005 I was an ESL student at South Seattle College (SSCC). That time in my life was a mess. I was confused. I felt deeply broken. But I found help at school. My teacher, Mrs. Doreen Chen, prepared me for the college level courses. Her unfailing support provided me invaluable assistance without conditions.

This inspired me and expanded my intellectual horizons. And because of her commitment to the educational process, I too can share in this great American dream with students at South Seattle College as a Benefits Hubs AmeriCorps member.

South Seattle College has a multicultural student body—all walks of life and from around the world. Thankfully, the college has nontraditional programs that help students not just survive but thrive until they graduate. As a part of the Retention and Completion team, I make sure our students are well-informed about assistance for their academic needs and are ready for transition.

United Way Benefits Hubd address non-academic needs for student success. In this role, I provide financial coaching to students who need assistance with financial planning, help complete FAFSA to apply for aid, and pull student credit reports to understand, improve and build their credit rating. I also connect students to public benefits programs and provide tax preparation to reduce barriers of access for students.

As another part of my service, last fall quarter I have launched and expanded the food pantry for students. When I started, the pantry was open 2 days a week with a limited in the selection of items. I expanded service delivery with 100 emergency meal bags for professors and counselors to distribute to hungry students. Thanks to $3,000 in support from United Way, the 220 students who access the pantry each month can each take up to 10 items per visit.

For students who are homeless or struggling to get by, they can get up to 40 items per month. The food pantry is growing, and the next step will be to increase the hours it is open for students.

My goal is to empower students to remove the barriers that would prevent them from achieving their dreams and through United Way Benefits Hubs, I am able to do just that.


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