With help from a federal program, Concordia now has a basic needs coordinator.
The college applied for and received an award from Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), which is part of the federal AmeriCorps system. VISTA is an anti-poverty program designed to provide needed resources to nonprofit organizations and public agencies to increase their capacity to lift communities out of poverty.
The award helps fund a position on campus for three years and is designed to have different people filling the role throughout that time. Sydney Stock ’21 is the first person in the position.
“The scope of the needs for students was surprising,” Stock said. “I was drawn to this because I care so much about Concordia students.”
Stock studied social activism while at Concordia. She said the college’s mission to create responsibly engaged citizens helped fuel her decision to get involved with AmeriCorps.
Her job on campus has three focus areas: working on food pantry-related projects, helping with Concordia’s emergency financial assistance program, and assisting Health Services to connect students with community resources, such as SNAP benefits.
Nathalie Rinehardt, assistant dean of students and director of Student Engagement, wanted to create the basic needs coordinator position after seeing an increase in students needing assistance.
“The needs and demographics of college students across the country have shifted so much,” Rinehardt said. “In this post-COVID society that we live in, with the increase of gas and food prices, you see students more and more coming to college not having the essential needs in order to be successful.”
The coordinator position will help amplify work already being done to address needs. Some of the resources available to students include the Cobber Food Pantry, the Free Store, emergency financial assistance, a laptop loan program, winter clothing drives, and access to mental and physical healthcare.
“We’re really trying to think about it holistically. We also work on belonging because that’s an essential, basic need,” Rinehardt said. “The narrative of students who go to private college would never need any of these resources is really changing. And students are asking about what kind of support there is going to be. We want them to know there’s a whole team of people behind the scenes here that care about these specific needs and working to find strategies to help them.”
The VISTA program is open to people 18 and older. Those interested in joining the program can learn more here.