By Jordan Wehlage
Academic success may seem impossible to achieve when you are not sure where your next meal may come from or where you are going to sleep when you leave class. However, these are not struggles you have to face alone. Your fellow students, staff and faculty are here to support you, and CI’s Basic Needs Program is among the assistance available to you.
Virtually no one has been unscathed by the changes brought on by the ongoing pandemic. For college students, there are a wide range of struggles; some are difficulties unique to the pandemic while others are unrelated but equally as challenging. Many of these problems can interfere with a student’s ability to complete coursework or even make it to class each day.
Within the California State University, there is a Basic Needs Initiative in place to address some of these barriers to success that students face. At CI, the Basic Needs Program aims to alleviate struggles with food and housing insecurity, financial emergencies and other basic needs.
According to a 2018 study by the CSU, about 37% of students at CI struggle with food insecurity. CI’s Basic Needs Program offers a variety of ways to support students facing this obstacle.
The Dolphin Pantry, located in Arroyo Hall room 114, operates five days a week with varying hours, and provides students and staff with food and toiletries. With a campus ID and a mask, students may receive up to five items per day from the Dolphin Pantry. During the 2020-21 school year, the Dolphin Pantry served roughly 1,000 students in need of food or hygienic necessities. Visit their webpage for their fall 2021 hours of operation: https://www.csuci.edu/basicneeds/.
In addition to the Dolphin Pantry, Basic Needs offers multiple other avenues to help with food insecurity. Staff are available to help students apply for CalFresh benefits and grocery gift cards are available for those who are ineligible for CalFresh. Additionally, there is a hot meals program which provides immediate access to a hot meal for students.
Sudden evictions or unsafe living conditions also impact a student’s ability to succeed in college. Basic Needs assists affected students by providing motel vouchers through a program funded by grants from Ventura County and the CSU which are set to expire in December 2021. On-campus emergency housing is also available for up to ten nights for free. Students can apply for emergency housing by filling out a self-referral form, found here: https://www.csuci.edu/basicneeds/emergency-housing.htm. Last year, 24 students were granted emergency housing, and75% of them graduated or continued at CI during that school year.
Financial emergencies and other essential needs can present barriers to students as well. Through a special relief fund known as the Ekho Your Heart Program, CI students, staff and faculty can receive a one-time grant of up to $500. Additionally, students can receive up to $750 through the emergency grant program in the event of a catastrophic life event that creates financial hardship.
Case Managers with CI Basic Needs are available to assist students with other needs such as technology, transportation, childcare and more.
Students have shown gratitude for the effect the program has had on their academic success. Their names will not be shared in order to protect their privacy. One student expressed to Basic Needs, “Thank you so very much for helping me carry the heavy load that this pandemic has laid upon many individuals and families.” Another testified, “Without the Ekho Your Heart grant and the support of Basic Needs, I’m not sure if I would have made it through this semester.”
Chelsee Bente, Associate Dean of Students, had this to say about the impact of the Basic Needs program: “Ultimately the greatest success this program has provided for many of the students we work with is that they are able to persist…and/or graduate because the concern and stress of not having their basic needs met is lessened due to the program’s existence and accessibility.” Bente continued, “I’m so proud of the work that has been done to advance the Basic Needs Program at CSU Channel Islands. …[T]here are so many narratives and stories where we have seen the Basic Needs Program directly impact and support students in a multitude of ways.”
If you are facing any obstacles to your academic success, you are encouraged to reach out to the CI Basic Needs Program. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get connected with their Instagram account @ci_basicneeds.