LEMOORE — Hundreds of students were back on campus at West Hills College Lemoore on Thursday, even if only momentarily.
The college hosted a food distribution event with eligible students receiving $100 food vouchers for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. A total of $70,000 in food vouchers were given out — the school’s largest food distribution effort ever.
WHC Lemoore President Kristin Clark said the college has students with food insecurities and that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue.
“We keep hearing from faculty that students are just really struggling,” Clark said. “So this was one thing we wanted to do, especially before the Thanksgiving holiday, was to take one worry off of their plate.”
In order to keep the funds local, the college decided to purchase the food vouchers from Best Buy by Saveco supermarkets. The vouchers can be used at any of the local Best Buy supermarkets. Best Buy even decided to donate additional $3,000 to help students.
“When they said that they were going to do that, it was a no-brainer,” Best Buy manager Johnny Perez said. “Let’s do something to help them give out more to each kid. If somebody’s going to do something like what they’re doing, we’re going to try to do something as well.”
The rest of the money came from federal block grants, which the college decided to allocate directly to students in need.
As a line of cars wrapped around the roundabout in front of the Golden Eagle Arena, staff were present to encourage students and wish them a happy Thanksgiving.
“Although the premise of this was really food related, I think it’s a way to boost their morale and let them know we care and we’re there for them,” Clark said.
WHC Lemoore is a regular food distribution center each month and donated 3,000 pounds of food on Monday, while serving about 120 households, but Clark said it wasn’t enough.
“We wanted our students to have a good Thanksgiving dinner,” Clark said.
Clark held up a sign that said “Stay & Finish Strong,” a message she wanted students to drive away with since there’s only a couple weeks left in the semester. Another staff member held a sign reading “You got this! We’re here for you! Stay strong!”
Students were checked in before proceeding ahead with both students and staff wearing masks and adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
WHC Lemoore put out a registration form for students to apply for the event. They needed to apply for the FAFSA or Dream Act, be taking at least 6 units at WHC Lemoore, and have financial need.
“We anticipated that we’d get a lot of students, but it was overwhelming,” Clark said. “We ended up having just shy of 700 students qualify for it.”
The original press release from the college said they would be distributing $63,000, but after seeing there were more eligible students than funds available, the college allocated more funds to the event.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to turn any students who are eligible away,’” Clark said.
WHC Lemoore also took advantage of the event to make sure their students were registered for next semester, there were no holds on their accounts, their paperwork is all in order, and if they needed any help, staff was on hand to assist.
Laura Leon, an admissions counselor for Grand Canyon University, was also on hand to provide students goody bags with information on the school for those interested.
WHC Lemoore expected to give out nearly all food vouchers on Thursday. For those who weren’t able to make it, Clark said they will be given out at a later time.
“We’ve all just missed our students so much,” Clark said. “I’m hopeful that this gives them a happy Thanksgiving.”
Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.
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