Grant will help local college students access resources

Published 2:17 pm Friday, November 25, 2022

Due to a recent grant, Virginia community colleges will be better able to help their students get the resources they need. For readers in The Herald’s coverage area, that mainly pertains to attendees of Southside Virginia Community College’s Cumberland location, as well as local residents attending Central Virginia Community College in Appomattox.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation awarded $125,000 to the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. This money will be used to help students obtain the resources they need as they continue their education through Single Stop.

Single Stop is a program that partners with The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) to help its students access public benefits and community resources they may not be aware they qualify for. This is an easy way to help students receive help with food insecurity, housing or finances as it connects students with federal, state and local programs.

According to VCCS, Single Stop has already been used by over 9,700 Virginia Community College Students across the state connecting them to over $21 million in benefits they were entitled to receive.

“Single Stop allows students to feel comfortable letting the school know about their needs,” said Leslie Perkins. She works as a college navigator at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC). “Lots of students don’t know what resources are out there and this program helps them figure out what additional help they can receive. This also helps move away from the stigmatization of asking for help.”

According to Mary Elkins, executive director at SVCC, the school has resources including its food pantry to help students as much as they can. However, having Single Stop allows them to help students with issues like housing where they do not have the resources but can connect students with those who do.

This grant will also help go above and beyond Single Stop with other food initiatives in the 14 Virginia community colleges located in the rural horseshoe, including Southside Virginia Community College. This refers to the arc of rural Virginia representing three-quarters of Virginia’s geography, where income and education levels are behind the rest of the Commonwealth.

According to Perkins, this grant will go towards other initiatives as well, including creating food baskets for the holiday season for the students who need them. She is also excited to see other students step up to help organize and help their fellow classmates.

The grant is part of a nationwide project from The Anthem Foundation to help individuals reach optimal health through good nutrition with its $30 million, three-year Food As Medicine initiative.

“It’s hard to concentrate on your studies when you’re having trouble paying for food, housing, childcare, transportation and other basic needs,” said Jennifer Sager-Gentry, Executive Director of the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, which received the donation on behalf of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Anthem has helped to boost our college food pantries and other emergency food services for the past several years, and we’re very grateful for their continued support for our students again this year.”