EOPS and CalWORKs enhance student successby on Jul 14, 2017
Tucked in the corner of the library building across from the gazebo and student center, the EOPS and CalWORKs staff welcome students to drop in and discover the services supporting their journey through college.
"It's important to meet students where they are," said Carina Cisneros, who has led the program for the past year. She uses technology to invite students and to speed the application process.
"The book voucher program gets students in the door," she said, "and the comprehensive services help students stay in the program and in college."
Joanna Wallace, Annette Gutierrez, Carina Cisneros and Marshal Galvan outside the
entry to EOPS and CalWORKs. The blue sandwich board signs help students
locate the program, inside the library building in LI 101.
Outreach is important. Students who qualify for Board of Governors (BOG) grants are sent an invitation to apply, listing all the available services: EOPS, CARE, CalWORKs, and Fresh Success.
Foster youth, Dreamers and AB-540 students receive a suite of supportive services based on eligibility that may include:
- Designated counselor
- Priority registration
- Book vouchers
- Laptop loans
- Graphing calculator loans
- University visits
- Transfer assistance
- Job development
- Gas cards, bus passes
- Other program specific services
Cisneros noted that one-third of Gavilan's EOPS students reside in Hollister. She has streamlined the application process, reducing three trips down to one. Students can apply online and receive book vouchers either electronically or on paper. They no longer have to present tax information, as eligibility is determined through the financial aid department. Students visit the Gilroy campus to meet with their counselor. Students can also go to the EOPS office for assistance in completing the application.
Cisneros came to Gavilan after stints working in the EOP/EOPS program at Mission Community College and CSUMB. Her passion is working with disadvantaged students to help them achieve their potential.
"EOPS has become a drop-in place for students," she said. They can talk with one another, with staff, and feel comfortable. Under her leadership the program now has two counselors dedicated to EOPS students. Enrollment has increased by 25 students each of the past two years. Currently approximately 475 students are enrolled, with a goal to grow the program to 500.
As students go through the program with counselor and peer support, "sometimes they may be receiving the first A or B they've ever gotten," said Cisneros. Progress reports from instructors, along with three required counseling contacts each semester, help students stay in college.
Low-income students enrolled in the EOPS program have a 4.2 percent increase in course completion, according to Peter Wruck, Director of Institutional Research. "In the world of big educational interventions, 4.2 percentage points is actually pretty huge," he said. If applied college-wide, "It would translate to an additional 500 students passing their courses each term, and a few dozen additional graduates each year."
CalWORKs supports students who are parents
Sharing the facility with EOPS, the CalWORKs program helps students get jobs on campus and in the community. These student-parents may have married young and started their families early. Community partners in the work program include Rebekah Children's Center and Gina Lopez Insurance in Gilroy, Youth Alliance in Hollister and Mission Bell in Morgan Hill.
Annette Gutierrez, lead staff for the CalWORKs program, noted that many of the staff experienced the same circumstances as the students coming in the door. "We are here for you," she said. "If this is not the right time, we're ready when you are ready." Students can apply for the program year round.
CalWORKs, with EOPS, offers five-minute classroom presentations about all the services. Some classes visit the EOPS/CalWORKs center to learn about services, then tour available locations. The Food Pantry is the first stop.
Gutierrez, during her 12 years at Gavilan, has also worked in assessment and admissions, offering insights to student needs. Transferring from Gavilan, she earned a BA in business management and, two years ago, an MSW. "This is my dream career, to work with these students," she said, describing them as resilient as they cope with homelessness, addiction, domestic abuse and life problems.
Her motto? "You're not alone, so let's not do it alone!"
Students share their stories
Joanna Wallace and Marshal Galvan arrived at Gavilan with different challenges, and each turned to EOPS/CalWORKs for help.
Wallace, mother of four, described her life struggling with domestic violence, dealing with drug addiction, and parenting a four-year-old child with autism who had a habit of running out of the house. In his final flight, he traveled a mile away. She had to go to the police department to pick him up.
A Child Protective Services emergency team was waiting there, but Wallace refused the required drug test. Her children went to emergency foster placement. She credits the intervention with helping her successfully get clean, and stop using drugs. Her teenage son helped with the domestic violence by calling police. She stayed clean, got her kids back in six weeks, then had to choose "hours," work or school. School? School!
Wallace had attended Evergreen Valley College 20 years previously, and learned that the units she had already earned would transfer She started at Gavilan College in Spring 2016.
"Without EOPS, I couldn't afford to do this," she said, noting the gas, tuition and books that the program provided to her. "My CalWORKs counselor, Ozzy Zamora, was great."
"Graduation was surreal, so outside the box I was worried about the comedown," she said. After being beat down in the abusive relationship, told she was worthless, she had accepted and believed it.
"Success is something to enjoy," Wallace said she has learned. "Learn to accept praise, compliments and embrace your success."
Wallace now sees herself as a self-sufficient mother raising kids who can come out on the other side and be successful. "I was a prisoner to drugs," she said. "I now know my children will have better lives. Every day I focus on recovery, my kids and school."
Wallace will start SJSU in the fall in the social work program, with a goal of working with families raising with children with disabilities.
Marshal Galvan, known for his humor, enjoys making other people happy. But he said it's also a way to hide a lot of things.
He grew up in foster care, describing it as living every shade of family and style of discipline. He dropped out of high school after his junior year, joined a gang and took comfort in his street friends. His priorities - money, drugs, alcohol, women - were not right. His first attempt at college was San Jose City College, where he sold drugs and drank alcohol on campus, leading to his first adult jail experience.
As an adult, he struggled with chronic homelessness, always on the street, in and out of jail. "During my homeless time, I lived near creeks, parks, on benches," he said. "I wandered the streets all night, so much my feet hurt." In 2011, hitting bottom, he got help from a former foster parent and learned about AA, which planted the seed of sobriety.
Getting sober, he came to Gavilan in Fall 2012 and discovered EOPS. He worked with counselor Mari Garcia for five years. After finishing his first semester, during winter break, he relapsed with meth and alcohol, landing back in jail. On the second day of the Spring 2013 semester, he was out of jail and back in class. "If these people only knew I woke up in jail this morning."
Some semesters he dropped out because of homelessness and family deaths. He dates 2014 as his turnaround year, when he got clean in May, found a place to live in August and was finally off probation in October. Landing a stable job, he was building momentum.
"I never had previous life consistency," Galvan said. "Mari really helped with that, and with my ed plan." She stuck with him, never judged him, just kept moving him back to the path.
Galvan described a defining moment in 2016 attending the Gavilan graduation of a good friend. "This is me in a year," he committed to himself. He even left his job in order to focus on school. One more family death that year, an aunt who had been inspirational to him, created the motivation to finish. "No success in school equates to no success in my life," he said. "If I put it in idle now, I'll be right back where I started."
Galvan will start CSUMB this fall majoring in sociology, and then pursue the MSW program. His career goal is to work with at-risk foster youth, specifically those ready to emancipate, to help them make logical, not emotional decisions. He expressed his thanks for the EOPS program that pushed him to stay focused. "If I can do it, anyone can."