Where is my next meal going to come from and will I get to eat at all today? Am I going to be able to sleep on their couch again or will I have to find elsewhere?
OLIVIA BELCHER/ TEJANO TRIBUNE
Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University,
spoke at the ASC on Feb. 9 about the importance of adequate food and shelter for students.
These are just two of the questions that students enduring food and shelter insecurities ask themselves on a daily basis.
More than 30 percent of college students are living with food and shelter insecurities in Wisconsin universities and colleges alone, according to the Wisconsin HOPE Lab founded by Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab.
Goldrick-Rab is a professor of Higher Education Policy and Sociology at Temple University and an activist for not only students who are living in poverty, but for all students.
Goldrick-Rab gave a speech on Feb. 9 at the EPCC Administrative Services Center, to an audience of EPCC faculty, staff, students and fans. Goldrick-Rab, visiting El Paso for the first time, said, “I knew the work that I do would resonate here.
I just didn’t know how unique of a situation you all have being on the border, especially when it comes to education and lifestyle. You all have a lot to teach the nation.”
Her main point is that yes, financial aid is available to students to take care of tuition and supplies but it does not include living expenses aside from the fact that the financial aid department frowns upon using aid money for living expenses.
At EPCC alone, 85 percent of its 29,000 students are receiving financial aid and 97 percent of those students receive Pell Grants.
On the one hand, the student’s schooling is taken care of but on the other hand, how is the student supposed to succeed without proper shelter and regular access to food?
Goldrick-Rab expressed that, “It is insanely sad that so many people go home to their families and are not even aware that there are homeless college students, with no food or place to sleep.”
Her sights are set on taking action and finding solutions for hungry and homeless students rather than not acknowledging it; “the one thing I like more than data is action.”
Goldrick-Rab did not personally go through food insecurity and homelessness as a child or college student but her passion is driven by something deeper, “My grandfather has been really important in my life and he always talked about the importance of education and has always told me that we have an obligation to each other.
He taught me that it isn’t okay to just sit in your house and be fine. When we sit down for dinner, I think of the people who don’t have dinner and I worry about it all the time.”
She has devoted almost 20 years to this issue and has raised awareness nationwide through many forms of media.
Goldrick-Rab has appeared on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, been published in the New York Times, wrote an Amazon best-seller “Paying the Price” and even testified before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Senators Tom Harkin and Lamar Alexander.
Goldrick-Rab says “the fact that I get to turn to my 11-year-old and say ‘mommy is going to be on the Daily Show, and not only that, but mommy gets to tell the whole nation that there are homeless college students’ and he gets that.
It is just so amazing that we get to tell people what is really going on. By telling Trevor Noah, suddenly everyone knew.”
Speech Communication Professor Rebekah Bell’s thoughts on Goldrick-Rab’s speech are, “I have never seen someone put the issue so succinctly. I have heard people say, ‘oh it’s bad at Mission [del Paso campus] or we have a lot of students in need at VV’ but I haven’t seen someone connect all those dots and say, ‘it is everywhere.’”
Bell also shared that, “I had a student in my class just last week who told me that he has an instructor buying him and his family groceries because he can’t afford them. I feel like we need to act on that. We need to start being creative about a solution because if there was one solution, the students would have already found it.
I know President Serrata and his team are more than ready and willing to act.”
EPCC Student Government President Andrea Porras-Portillo shared a personal comment about Goldrick-Rab’s book; “Her book and shortened essay were very enlightening and I realized that I’m going through a form of food insecurity myself.
There are times I can’t afford to go out and I don’t have anything at my house to make so sometimes I only eat once a day or not at all. I didn’t realize it, but I felt it, if that makes sense.
There is a joke in my family that when we tell my mom ‘I’m hungry’ she says, ‘are you sure you’re not thirsty’ so that we would drink water and fill up.”
Portillo also voiced many strategies that she felt would be effective here at EPCC.