Testimony during Hope Center webinar puts a human face on student struggles

Home|Blog|Testimony during Hope Center webinar puts a human face on student struggles

Shannon Seward“I wanted to be successful. A series of circumstances led me back to living at my mom’s house at 30 years old with two kids, and I didn’t want that. I wanted better for myself and for my children. So I enrolled. And that’s really it. I wanted to do better, and I wanted to be better.”

Eastern Shore Community College alumna Shannon Seward shared her story June 3 during a webinar focused on the scope of food, housing and other challenges that face students at Virginia’s Community Colleges.

The online event was organized by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, the same research organization that conducted a statewide survey of our students during the fall 2020 semester.  More than 10,000 VCCS students participated in the survey.  The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation provided funding for the student needs survey, via the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education (VFCCE). Hope center logo

The survey results painted a sobering picture of the non-academic barriers that community college students face even before they set foot in the classroom:

  • 42 percent of VCCS students reported housing insecurity in the previous 12 months, and 10 percent had experienced homelessness in that period.
  • 32 percent reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, meaning they were sometimes unsure where their next meal was coming from.

These problems can derail even the best-intentioned student.

The path hasn’t been easy for Shannon Seward. She faced multiple challenges. As she told the webinar, “I couldn’t have done it without the help that I received from the college.  I had financial struggles, housing, mental health struggles. It’s been a lot, but it’s changed my life and I’m where I am now because of Eastern Shore Community College.”

ESCC’s Foundation and the VFCCE also have provided assistance, in addition to other community services on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Seward’s advice for college faculty and administrators: “Just listen. It’s really hard to ask for help. So, if you just listen, you might learn.”

Shannon SewardIn college, Seward studied and was credentialed in welding.  She has found full-time employment at the college in the buildings and grounds department.  And this fall, she’ll join the adjunct faculty by teaching a dual enrollment welding course.

“Today, I have like a nice house and I just recently got a car and I’m happy,” said Seward. “I’ve overcome anxiety because of the opportunities I’ve gotten through the college, I had to step outside of my comfort zone a lot. So that’s made me a lot better.”

“This why we do the work we do,” said Dr. Van Wilson, VCCS associate vice chancellor for student experience and strategic initiatives. “What Shannon shared with us has been inspirational.  We need to appreciate her story, and the fact that she has changed the trajectory of her life, and the lives of her children.”

View a recording of the webinar here.

Learn more about the survey here.



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