June 15th, 2021
Hope Center Webinar Shows the Realities of Food and Housing Insecurity
On June 3rd, Shannon Seward shared her inspirational story during a webinar focused on the scope of food and housing insecurity affecting students at Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS). Organized by The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, the discussion illuminated the many challenges that students currently face.
“I wanted to be successful. A series of circumstances led me back to living at my mom’s house at 30 years old with two kids, and I didn’t want that,” she said. “I wanted better for myself and for my children. So I enrolled. And that’s really it. I wanted to do better, and I wanted to be better.”
The Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE) is dedicated to removing barriers to academic success. Thanks to a generous investment from The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, the VFCCE was able to provide funding for a statewide survey of Virginia Community College System (VCCS) students in the fall of 2020. This survey, conducted by the Hope Center, was taken by over 10,000 VCCS students.
The survey results painted a sobering picture of the non-academic barriers that community college students face even before they set foot in the classroom:
- 42 percent of VCCS students reported housing insecurity in the previous 12 months, and 10 percent had experienced homelessness in that period.
- 32 percent reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, meaning they were sometimes unsure where their next meal was coming from.
These problems can derail even the best-intentioned student.
The path hasn’t been easy for Seward. She faced multiple challenges. As she told the webinar, “I couldn’t have done it without the help that I received from the college. I had financial struggles, housing, mental health struggles. It’s been a lot, but it’s changed my life–and I’m where I am now because of Eastern Shore Community College.”
Seward exemplifies just how successful students can be when these issues are addressed. With support from the VFCCE and the Eastern Shore Community College Foundation, she was credentialed in welding. She is now a full-time employee at the college in the buildings and grounds department. This fall, she will join the adjunct faculty by teaching a dual enrollment welding course.
“Today, I have a nice house, and I just recently got a car–and I’m happy,” said Seward. “I’ve overcome anxiety because of the opportunities I’ve gotten through the college, I had to step outside of my comfort zone a lot. So that’s made me a lot better.”
“This why we do the work we do,” said Dr. Van Wilson, VCCS associate vice chancellor for student experience and strategic initiatives. “What Shannon shared with us has been inspirational. We need to appreciate her story, and the fact that she has changed the trajectory of her life, and the lives of her children.”
View a recording of the webinar here.
Learn more about the survey here.