For the past five years PCC’s Dreamkeepers program has been providing assistance for those in financial crisis, and has helped prevent a multitude of students from putting their academic futures on hold.
Dreamkeepers, a Scholarship America project, is an an emergency financial assistance program with the goal to help students during unforeseen emergencies that are non-academic. The program is able to provide eligible students with aid in different forms, the majority being grants.
Founded in 2011 at PCC, this is a collaboration with Financial Aid and Student Affairs (now known as Office of Student Life) by former assistant dean of Student Affairs Scott Thayer and former assistant dean of Scholarships and Financial Aid Kim Miles.
These emergencies include covering certain expenses such as utility bills, rent, medical and dental costs, automobile expenses, and so forth. Situations like these put a burden on the welfare of students, which in turn may encourage them to take a leave from school to get their situation taken cared of, often creating barriers between them and their academic goals.
Dr. Carol Brown, who has been the Dreamkeepers Coordinator since October 2015, says the program is a one-time emergency for students who apply. Students must provide proof of documentation of the said hardship they’ve referred to in the application. Approved students can get their emergency grant within a week’s time, but the grant will be named under a third party so that students won’t be able to cash it.
According to Brown, since the program’s inception there have been a little over 300 students who have applied. That number has risen since the executive director of communications Alex Boekelhide helped spread the word about the program.
Data has shown that there are peaks of students who apply for the program in the fall, while there are quite a few dips during the spring semester. Also, according to the same data, 53-percent of students who apply are women and 47-percent are men. 47-percent of students who were a part of the Dreamkeepers program later went on to graduate.
Student Kiara Jones, who was once facing homelessness, reached out to Dreamkeepers in her time of need when her utilities were being shut off.
“I spoke and dealt with (Brown) the majority of the time,” Jones said via email. “With assistance I was able to make it through as well as stay in summer school, in which I did fairly well. Thank you Dreamkeepers, and thank you Dr. Brown.”
Student Andrew Rocha, who was once homeless and living in his car, also found Dreamkeepers to be extremely helpful. According to Boekelhide, Rocha went to Dreamkeepers once he realized that he was about to lose his car, which meant losing his opportunity to attend class and graduate college. Through the help of Dreamkeepers staffer Fernando Serrano, Rocha was not only able to get the mechanic’s bill paid, he was able to find a place to park hassle-free, find places to get food, and was able to finish at PCC, continuing his education at the University of Arizona.
The program is working hard to expand its services to students, particularly concerning the issue of food, which has proven to be difficult.
“There is no documentation for it, but you have to eat,” Brown said. “If you don’t eat, you can’t focus. So it’s all part of our mission and purpose here at PCC is to support the students towards success, and a lot of that addresses basic needs.”
According to Brown, there are a number of students on campus who suffer from food insecurities. This situation isn’t new at all, yet there has hardly been any attention addressing this problem.
“Where do you think tomato soup made out of hot water and ketchup came from? It came from students who were trying to get by,” Brown said.
To counteract this growing issue, a campus-wide effort to provide a food pantry for students is underway and anticipated to be up and running by Spring 2017.
Those in need of financial assistance can apply to Dreamkeepers through their website.
To be eligible to apply, one must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, be enrolled in a minimum of six units, have completed at least one semester at PCC, have a cumulative grade point average of 2.00 or higher, have a verifiable street and e-mail address, and be facing a verifiable, unforeseen financial emergency.
Expenses not covered by Dreamkeepers include tuition, school fees, books, legal expenses, nicotine or any other control substance.