It’s not always easy to spot a person in crisis. They walk among us every day. They may even sit next to us in class. What we also may not realize is that many students at Rock Valley College may be one crisis away from dropping out of college.
How can we help these students? That’s the question one new student organization is working hard to answer. The Students of Service (SOS) Club, a human services club focused on peer-to-peer crisis intervention, was formed about a year ago by Professor Amanda Benney’s Leadership Development class. Benney’s colleague, Assistant Professor Tracy Hazen, heard of a student who was homeless and living in a garage with his son. Hazen wanted to help so she reached out to fellow faculty members who were happy to provide and solicit additional donations. As a result, they were able to raise enough money to provide that student and his son with some financial assistance, clothes, and food.
“I went to my [Leadership Development] class and I told them about what had happened,” says Benney. “Organically, the class responded by saying, ‘I think this happens more than we know and it would be really awesome if we had some sort of formal organization where we could tend to crisis situations.’”
The class decided to create a student organization as its service learning project for the spring 2016 semester. They held a contest to decide on a club name and settled on Students of Service or SOS. For the club logo they selected a lighthouse, often a symbol of a beacon of hope. The next order of business was to get a handle on the issues students might be facing. The club conducted a campus-wide student survey and the common needs that emerged included transportation, and money for books, food, and personal hygiene products. The survey also revealed that students were more likely to talk about these problems with peers, i.e. fellow students, as opposed to telling a faculty or staff member.
The basic needs that many of us take for granted can often significantly impact a student’s ability to stay in school.
“Some of these students are just trying to stay in the game, and sometimes one little thing can put them out of the game.”
“It’s basic Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” says Benney. “You can’t focus on school if you don’t have food and water at home, or if you don’t have transportation. You can’t focus on your grades because you’re just trying to survive the day. So we’re trying to reduce those stresses these students face by helping them get their basic needs.”
It’s likely that many students have been in the checkout line with someone at the Bookstore who had to decide between buying groceries and purchasing a textbook.
“Some of these students are just trying to stay in the game, and sometimes one little thing, [being able to afford] a book, can put them out of the game,” says Benney. “[The Students of Service Club] wants to help them with those small crisis situations that will make or break whether they are here this week, next week, or next semester.”
Right now the key goals SOS is focused on are working with RVC’s TRIO Student Support Services to keep the recently established food pantry in the Student Center stocked, offering bus passes and transportation for students who are challenged by accessibility to RVC locations, and serving as a liaison between students and local organizations who can assist with crisis intervention options.
“If there’s domestic violence going on at home and students are overwhelmed and exhausted from it, we can take over and connect them with the people who can help,” says Stephanie Drought, RVC student and SOS President.
What’s Next for SOS?
For the spring 2017 semester, students in Professor Benney’s Leadership Development class took on idea of developing a scholarship in honor of Amy Feliciano, a RVC employee who passed away after a traffic accident in January. The “Happy Amy Scholarship” will be awarded through the RVC Foundation. In keeping with Amy’s spirit and love for life, the goal of this scholarship will be to assist RVC students who showcase a desire and passion for staying in school and for those who aren’t afraid to reach out to others who may sometimes feel unseen. Eligible recipients will be students in good standing, with seven credit hours or more and those who demonstrate financial need.
On Tuesday, April 25, the SOS Club will host a “Happy Amy Scholarship” fundraiser event in the Student Center Atrium from 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The event will also serve as an opportunity for faculty and staff who knew Amy to come celebrate her life.
How can I help SOS?
You can donate to SOS. If you would like to make a financial contribution you can do so online through the RVC Foundation website. Under “Donation Information” you’ll see a dropdown menu for “Designation.” Choose “Other” and then type “SOS” into the text box that appears. If you specifically want to donate to the “Happy Amy Scholarship Fund” you can type that or simply type “SOS Scholarship.”
If you wish to donate food, clothes, personal hygiene items, or supplies, please reach out to Amanda Benney to make those arrangements.
How can I get help from SOS?
SOS is still working on developing a formal process and guidelines for how to prioritize the needs of students in relation to available funding. In the meantime, please contact Amanda Benney.