Temple College

Kierra Fountain, a student worker at Temple College, takes advantage of the food pantry available to students in the Temple College Foundation office inside the Arnold Student Union Building on campus.

For the past year, Temple College administration, instructors, staff and students have been meeting and working on processes that can best serve vulnerable students.

There have always been TC students who have had unmet needs that make it difficult to achieve success, however, Temple College has embraced an initiative, Circle of Support, that will develop plans to offer assistance or find the community resources that can help.

Committees were formed to look at child care, transportation, housing, crisis funding, food, tuition assistance and more.

Most recently, representatives of local agencies that serve individuals that share the like issues with at-risk TC students were invited to meet at TC and talk about how the school and the agencies could partner to fill in the gaps that serve as obstacles for students.

One of the first steps TC took was to meet with United Way of Central Texas, which has connections with local and regional agencies that provide services to people in the community.

“We sat down with Stephanie O’Banion, president of United Way of Central Texas, and Aly McMillan, vice president of community impact, to discuss initiatives and programs and how we can work together,” Jennifer Graham, TC Foundation executive director, said.

The goal was to bring together agencies supported by United Way of Central Texas and the Circle of Support committees working on similar focus areas, Graham said.

Graham said she wanted the individuals to talk about resources, what’s lacking and what works and what isn’t working.

“A lot of the time we’re sharing the same problems,” she said.

Transportation is a huge issue among TC students and local residents. The HOP, the regional bus system, doesn’t have service after 6 p.m. and that’s a problem for students enrolled in evening classes.

It’s almost impossible for a resident that uses public transportation to get to and from work and to use the same system to get groceries — it’s time prohibitive.

Beyond the typical resources, having access to basic needs provides as a launching pad to be successful in every area of life, McMillan said.

“We can’t focus on getting a better job if we’re worried our kids aren’t performing in schools, or how are we going to put food on the table if you want me to look for a new job,” she said.

United Way agencies are successful because of the collaboration that takes place in rooms all across the community, McMillan said.

Those who have good jobs will have access to health care, housing and access to transportation. The biggest barrier to succeeding in finding gainful employment and housing is childcare and transportation.

Nighttime positions at businesses in the industrial park would be a financial boon, but the HOP doesn’t run at night and there’s no child care available at night in Temple.

“There’s not a single licensed child care facility that runs after hours in Temple or Belton,” she said.

There is a population in Central Texas who are too poor to work, McMillan said. Those starting a job can’t pay in advance for child care nor come up with the bus fare.

The United Way of Central Texas is working with Texas Workforce to improve back office duties at child care facilities.

Transportation is an issue in keeping people fed and getting patients to health care and getting people to work.

Top needs for calls to 211 are rent assistance, utility assistance and food.

“People aren’t making enough to make ends meet,” McMillan said.

Dawn Riess, nursing faculty, said there are nursing students who struggle with child care and transportation.

Alicia Buck, department chair of surgical technology at TC, said as part of Circle of Success, they had done a community search for health care resources for students.

“We had a homeless student who went through our program who is now working at Baylor Scott & White,” Buck said.

Jackie McLaughlin, Bell County Family Community Health, is interested in food safety and making sure the students have the items needed to make a meal with the food they get at the pantry.

 Victoria Bryant, a member of TC staff, said she was a TC student and the beneficiary of the Single Parent program.

“That program changed my life,” Bryant said. “Those ladies helped me find resources that helped with housing, day care and food.”

Everything you are doing makes a difference, she told the group.

Developing an employment program for students can be a benefit to all entities.

 McLaughlin suggested approaching local businesses to mentor students for jobs.

“If you are mentoring a potential hire, you want that individual to be successful,” she said. “By the time you train two or three people for a position it has cost you a lot of time.”

Hollie Spinn, social worker at Temple Community Clinic, talked about who the clinic sees, which includes TC students under most circumstances.

After about an hour, individuals were asked to share business cards with representatives for other agencies that looked like potential partners.