U-ACCESS Program Helps Students With Life Outside the Classroom
August 15, 2012
Being a student is a huge commitment, but many students also juggle full-time work or multiple part-time jobs. For some students, these jobs are the difference between having a place to live and homelessness, between having a meal or going to bed hungry.
An increasing number of students have visited the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs to ask for assistance to pay for groceries, rent, and daily expenses, so the office decided to create a program that would provide support for students not related to academic or behavioral issues.
In February, the Office of Urban and Off-Campus Support Services, also known as the U-ACCESS program, was created.
The U-ACCESS program is designed to provide comprehensive support and advocacy services to UMass Boston students who may be experiencing homelessness, emancipation from foster care, parental neglect, chronic or persistent poverty, domestic violence, legal issues, or financial emergencies.
Alyssa Kelley, a junior psychology and sociology major from Boston and the oldest of 10 children, recently took custody of two younger brothers. Shirley Fan-Chan, interim director of U-ACCESS, helped Kelley with the court process and connected her with Rediscovery, Inc. so she could find a two-bedroom apartment.
“Shirley helped me with school, to make sure I wasn’t overstressed and [was] able to succeed in class. Without her I don’t really know where I’d be right now,” Kelley said.
Fan-Chan says the students who seek help from U-ACCESS don’t have family support to fall back on when finances are tight.
"I have a teenager graduating from high school, and it broke my heart to see a student who was holding two jobs who didn’t eat for a while. [He told] a faculty member that he was afraid he would pass out. Stories like that, they touch your heart, because they are hardworking students. This group of students holds multiple jobs. The only difference is they don't have a safety net. They have nobody," Fan-Chan said.
Fan-Chan says U-ACCESS is exploring the possibility of an on-campus food pantry. She is also working to connect students with additional on-campus and off-campus services they may need. Fan-Chan, who previously ran a program for victims of domestic violence, graduated with her master of science in public affairs from the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies in June.
Kelley says she hopes other students will be able to benefit from U-ACCESS as she has.
“I always felt like if something came up in my life, that there was nothing I could do. If something happened at home with a family emergency, I felt like no one at school understood. There was no excuse that I could give why I was struggling. [U-ACCESS] helped me realize that people do have problems outside the classroom, and that here are resources that can help you to overcome those problems,” Kelley said.
The U-ACCESS program office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 617.287.5800 or email U-Access@umb.edu for more information.