On January 30, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. In response to this unprecedented threat, the entire world shut-down in a desperate effort to curb the spread of the harmful virus. Mississippi issued a Shelter-in-Place order on April 3, locking down the entire state. This left thousands of college students trying frantically to figure out how to continue their studies. If trying times reveal a person’s true colors, then this crisis has shown just how dedicated our C2C Coaches are to their students.
Shaquita Hopson, the C2C Coach at Meridian Community College (MCC), recalls being in a similar situation and feeling the support from her school community when Hurricane Katrina devastated southern Mississippi on August 29, 2005. Overnight, millions of people were left without homes, reliable food and water sources, and safe transportation out. Shaquita’s social work teacher went above and beyond her role as a professor to help students with anything they might need during the challenging experience, even going so far as to arrange a way for her students to get ice in order to stay cool in the 90-degree temperatures, to refrigerate food, and to avoid dehydration.
Now, as a dedicated C2C Coach, Shaquita finds herself fulfilling the same role as her former instructor to meet the needs of her students. Inspired by her own experiences in school, she’s paying it forward by doing everything in her power to help students overcome new challenges arising from the current pandemic.
A student reaches out for help
Across Mississippi, colleges had to move all classes online in response to the state’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures. This quick and unpredictable transition left many students struggling to adjust to the new format. Marquita Brewster, a student enrolled at Meridian Community College, found herself without a laptop that could handle all of the online coursework. Unable to afford a new computer and worried about falling behind in her classes, she reached out to Shaquita about her situation to see what could be done. Even though Marquita describes herself as someone who hesitates to ask for help, her C2C Coach’s openness and dedication made her feel confident that she could rely on Shaquita... and it paid off.
A call for support is answered
When Shaquita read her student’s plea for help, she immediately sprang into action, realizing that Marquita wouldn’t be able to continue school during the pandemic without a new laptop. Although she wasn’t sure how the situation would play out, she was willing to try everything in her power to help Marquita find a new laptop to continue her studies online. As Shaquita explains, “I’m willing to stick my neck out for students.”
After two weeks of sending emails, tracking down potential leads, and brainstorming ideas, Shaquita had a breakthrough. A coworker in MCC’s scholarship department told her about a grant that could be put towards purchasing a laptop for students. Shaquita immediately told Marquita about the good news and contacted the financial aid department on her behalf to see if she was eligible.
Fortunately, Marquita qualified for the grant and was scheduled to receive her new laptop quickly. Shaquita’s efforts didn’t stop there, however. She was even willing to drive to the all but deserted school and pick up the laptop for Marquita when it wasn’t sent to the student’s home - yet another testament to how far C2C Coaches are willing to go to support their students.
Succeeding in tough circumstances
With the unwavering support and dedication of her C2C Coach, Marquita is now able to find academic success even during these tough circumstances. Her new laptop makes it easier to access course material, complete projects, communicate with professors, and even hold virtual study sessions with her classmates to stay up-to-date on the material. As a grateful Marquita mentions, she is finding uses for her new computer everywhere.
A variety of student resources
In many ways, C2C Coaches act as ambassadors for students by hearing out all of their needs and tirelessly looking for solutions. As Shaquita demonstrated by her dedication to finding a solution for Marquita to continue her studies online, students around the state are receiving extra help and guidance from their coaches. Here are just a few opportunities that students were able to take advantage of because of the support of their institution’s coach:
- In-house WiFi: Some students have even been able to get WiFi installed in their homes for free or at a reduced rate due to an Xfinity program called Internet Essentials that was brought to light by Shaquita.
- Financial resources: C2C Coaches are available to help students locate financial resources that can help cover unforeseen costs such as laptops and other equipment.
- Deadline extensions: At some institutions, students who have trouble completing all of their work on time, given the disruptions caused by the lockdown measures, can request a 2-week extension and alternate grading options.
- Constant support: Perhaps the greatest resource available to C2C students is the constant support offered through the program. Coaches who already contacted their students regularly are making an effort to increase that outreach given the extra challenges facing students today.
What MDHS can offer students
The Mississippi Department of Health & Human Services is another excellent source for support through the pandemic and beyond. Students from around the state can apply for a wealth of social services including grants, scholarships, and access to special programs that help with everything from child support to financial aid. Each year, MDHS attends community resource fairs that are hosted to help put students in touch with programs that offer unique opportunities. Shaquita passionately encourages her C2C students to attend these events for the wonderful help that’s just waiting to be claimed. One of Shaquita’s students who attended MCC’s resource fair was able to come away with three different assistance programs after just one meeting! She received a grant from MDHS, clothes for an interview, and unemployment benefits.
A C2C Coach makes the difference
Before starting with her current degree, Marquita had already gained some college experience by completing her certification for Cosmetology. Now with Shaquita in her corner, she sees what an advantage the C2C program is for returning students. In her words, having a C2C Coach has made “a really big difference” toward completing her degree. This is a feeling shared among countless students who have benefited and continue to benefit from having a C2C Coach by their side who is committed to their success. Like all C2C Coaches, Shaquita wants her students to know that she’s “there for them... during this unpredictable time of social isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… and anytime.” When asked what she would tell other non-traditional students thinking about returning to complete their degree, Marquita said, “Never give up on your goals, and when you have an opportunity to go back... do it!”
The C2C Program is here for you
The Complete 2 Compete Program is an initiative set up to help adult learners in Mississippi return to college to complete their degrees. Having offered classes online for years already, the program is well equipped to continue supporting non-traditional students achieve their academic goals even during these unprecedented times. Here are some highlights of the C2C Program:
- C2C Coach - Each student is paired with a dedicated C2C Coach who offers support and guidance at each step of the process from enrollment all the way through until graduation.
- C2C Grant - With many adult students struggling financially, the C2C Grant is designed to make it easier for participants to handle the cost of tuition.
Contact C2C today to see if you’re eligible for the program.