Opportunity Center envisioned to help students

Tamonda GriffithsNews Writer

When it comes to the issue of food insecurity, Campus Compact for Southern New England AmeriCorps Vista member Aleyra Lamarche said that is not the only issue an on-campus Opportunity Center would help students struggling to meet their basic needs with.

“It would be an area where you can find all kinds of things that can help you with these like basic needs [and] situations,” said Lamarche.

The idea behind the center, Lamarche said, is to centralize the resources students need day-to-day in one location.

“The idea is that you do get all the support you need to eventually graduate and be successful at Southern,” said Lamarche.

The Opportunity Center, Lamarche said, would provide “wrap around services” that would address not only student’s food insecurity but issues of homelessness, lack of clothing and insufficient childcare.

Lamarche said some of the issues involved with food insecurity are temporary issues; in terms of long-term, she said a resident case manager would help point students in the right direction.

If students cannot have their basic needs met, they will be unable to focus and be good students, she said.

Dean of Student Affairs Jules Tetreault said the vision for the center is to help connect students to university support, the community and other state agencies.

The Opportunity Center, Tetreault said would partner with a state agency such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to bring a representative on  campus and help students who may need their assistance enroll in the program.

“Part of the Center is connecting to a wider branch of services,” said Tetreault, “and really thinking wrapping around.”

The university, Tetreault said cannot be the “be all and end all to everybody,” but it can provide short-term, emergent care and support to students through a network of outside programs and agencies.

The Opportunity Center, Tetreault said, will not replace the Academic Success Center; it will just focus on students’ basic needs to lead to success in academic needs, he said.

According to Tetreault, there are several institutions of higher education who have opened food pantries on their campuses and believe they have solved all of a student’s issues.

“Once you provide access to food the other issues come up in terms of needs,” said Tetreault. Currently, Tetreault said there is no exact location for the center, but his goal is to have a food pantry opened by the end of the fall 2019 semester.

“I’m hoping and looking for space that will grow into the Opportunity Center, so we don’t have to move [the food pantry],” said Tetreault.

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