Everything’s bigger in Texas, including hearts. Lone Star College-CyFair faculty want to make sure that no students have to give up on their educational goals because of hunger or because they lack other resources to continue. In September, the college opened The Empowerment Center, which includes not only a food pantry, but also a career closet and additional resources to support students – and staff – in need.
“The Empowerment Center is a faculty-led initiative developed as an effort to provide support for the whole student,” Dean Jason LaPres said in a press release.
While community college faculty can do much to help students succeed academically, LSC-CyFair faculty and staff recognized that help with non-academic, issues are needed, too.
“As teachers, we help our students with their long-term goals — getting a degree and getting a good career — but at The Empowerment Center, we can also give them the resources they need at that particular moment to be able to stay in school and be successful, and that’s very rewarding,” said Julie Wilbur, professor and center volunteer.
Professor Hilary Harris, co-chair of the center’s task force, said the center will not only facilitate access of resources to address basic immediate needs, but also expand to offer additional services to meet evolving needs.
“This center is LSC-Fair’s commitment to stepping up to the plate and making sure no stone is left unturned when it comes to helping our students succeed in a really challenging environment,” Harris said.
The college already had the Food for Thought: Lone Star College-CyFair Food Pantry, which, since September 2017, has had more than 450 visits. In the fall of 2017, 1,219 food and non-food items (toiletries and school supplies) were given to those in need, with another 3,334 food and non-food items given between January and August 2018.
Volunteering at the center has been an eye-opening experience for Professor Lisa Brashier.
“I have learned many students are doing the best they can to improve their quality of life and they are choosing tuition over food as a way to do that,” said Brashier. “Volunteering is such a simple way I can help to better their future.”
The food pantry is now housed in The Empowerment Center, which also contains The Career Closet — with clothing, shoes and accessories to create appropriate outfits for interviews that recipients can keep. A dedicated counselor is at the center to assist students with career counseling and accessing community resources.