For many first-time students, SLCC is the answer | Opinion

When Sophia Gaona started attending Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), she was working full-time at a fast food restaurant, taking evening classes, and doing her homework on her cell phone. Imagine writing an essay on your cell phone at 1am

No one in Sophia’s family had ever gone to college. In high school, she would go back and forth, wondering, “Should I do this (go to college) or not?”

Sophia decided to do it, but she realized she would be alone. His motives? A dream to become a social worker but also to show friends and family that there is another way after high school. “For us, it’s not just about knowing that you want to go to college, but knowing how do this.”

SLCC helped Sophia figure out how to “do it”. During her first year, she discovered the resources and financial support available at SLCC. She received a presidential scholarship, began working on campus, and became involved in several clubs.

There are many students like Sophia at SLCC. More than half are the first members of their family to attend university and more than 80% work while going to school. These young people often help take care of their siblings and contribute financially to their families. The emotional and psychological toll of figuring out, on their own, how to make college a reality, as well as the pressure to raise their families, is heavy.

SLCC’s early involvement in middle and high schools opens doors for many of these children. The college connects students with scholarships and provides the guidance and mentorship that their parents might not be able to offer. This is especially evident in college flourishing PACE Bursary Program which is active in five high schools in Salt Lake County.

SLCC helps students understand that college is possible for them. As Utah’s largest open-entry college, we rely on private donations to provide scholarships and safety net programs that often keep students in school. In addition to scholarships, the SLCC provides childcare vouchers, medical aid, mental health counseling, and a full-service pantry for food-insecure students.

The college also has a Student in Crisis Fund, which was launched in 2020 to address the economic turmoil seen at the start of the pandemic. The college quickly discovered that, pandemic or not, many students needed help with their basic needs. As a result, the college maintained this fund to help struggling students pay for housing, utilities, food, and other basic needs.

The pandemic has also revealed that the gap between haves and have-nots has widened, leading to increased pressure for many of our students.

Sophia remembers that stress from the early days of the pandemic, but her SLCC scholarship allows her to work fewer hours and pay for her car so she can drive to class and help get her younger brother to school. high school.

On these trips, she persuades him that college is indeed attainable. She tells him about the resources and opportunities at SLCC. “I’ll show you how,” she said. “It’s a step that will help our family. You can do it.”

As former students and members of SLCC’s Board of Directors and Foundation Board, we have seen the positive role SLCC plays in transforming lives.

Please consider supporting SLCC so we can help more students like Sophia pursue a brighter future. While the college has a Annual Giving Day, February 17, we are always looking to partner with anyone at any time to help our outstanding students achieve their dreams. We hope you will join us!

Silvia Castro, Class of 1996, is the Alumni Leadership Council representative on the SLCC Board of Directors. She is the executive director of the Suazo Business Center, a Utah nonprofit focused on economic mobility for the minority community. She has over 20 years of experience working with non-profit, government and for-profit organizations.

Bryce Whittaker, Class of 2001, is Chairman of the SLCC Alumni Leadership Council. He is Senior Director, Global Digital Strategy at APCO Worldwide.

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