Provide safe housing for foster and homeless students during break periods, especially during the cold winter months
  • Petitioned Dr. Juan Olivarez

This petition was delivered to:

President of Aquinas College
Dr. Juan Olivarez
Dean of Students at Aquinas College
Mr. Brian Matzke
Director of Residence Life at Aquinas College
Ms. Julie Blaszak

Provide safe housing for foster and homeless students during break periods, especially during the cold winter months

    1. Jessica McCormick
    2. Petition by

      Jessica McCormick

      East Grand Rapids, MI

*PETITION UPDATE*

Thanks so much for your support for my campaign! Since I started this petition, there has been some exciting progress; college administrators agreed to help find a hotel where foster and homeless students were able to stay warm and safe during winter break . But even more importantly, Aquinas' administration agreed to establish a dialogue with experts and other universities to work toward a formal policy and solution on this issue-- both at Aquinas College and other small colleges whose students face similar challenges. I'm looking forward to working with Aquinas to secure safe and stable housing for those who are in need in the long term. For now, I've closed the petition while we work together on a solution. I hope you keep you updated about our progress!

********

As an unaccompanied homeless youth, there were many barriers to getting into (and staying in!) college. Now that I'm lucky enough to be in my senior year at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I'm about to face another challenge this winter break: I'll have nowhere to go when campus housing shuts down for winter break.

Because I was a homeless youth when I was finishing high school, college was a goal that I was not sure I would ever reach. Sure, I had thought about it, and knew that continuing my education post high school was one of the greatest keys to building a future for myself. I was excited when I was able to apply for and was accepted to a small college in my city, Aquinas College. While there were many challenges, with the help of a great organization in my community, Arbor Circle, I was able to secure on-campus housing and started at Aquinas College in the fall of 2010. 

Since then, there have been numerous obstacles faced and countless challenges overcome. But one of the main barriers remains: housing. One of the most tricky situations for foster and homeless students in college is what to do for break periods. Conceded, this is also a difficult situation for schools. Aquinas College provides opportunities to rent on-campus apartments during the summer months, and allows international students and in-season athletes to maintain their housing over fall and spring breaks. However, homeless and foster students are not included in the spring and fall allowances, and are left without options for the two-to-three week period during Michigan's cold winters.

Colleges across the country have combatted the issue of break housing in multiple ways. Some have chosen to keep one housing unit open for the break to provide shelter to these students. This cuts down on the utility use for the college, and is one of many ways that the college could ensure safe and stable housing for a very vulnerable group of students throughout the year. Last year, I spent part of my winter break sleeping outside on campus and I know that I don't want to face the same experience again this year -- and I'm sure there are other students who also fear the same.

As a senior, I am anticipating to graduate this upcoming May with a double major in Sociology and Community Leadership. I have overcome many challenges, and cannot wait to dance across the stage in celebration of the work that I have done. However, it is my greatest hope that students who are in situations similar to mine, including several freshman with whom I share a dorm currently, are alleviated of this one major barrier during their college years. Plus, there are thousands of other students -- some who are homeless, some who were in foster care, others who have lost their parents or guardians -- who are also affected by this issue across the country. I am so proud to be an Aquinas College Saint, will be even more proud to be an Aquinas College Alum, and would be so beyond grateful if my Saints would put forth the effort to show that they are proud and supportive of students like me, as well.

Thanks for signing my petition, and as always-- GO SAINTS!

~Jessie McCormick

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 100,000 signatures
    2. Question: Is the college aware of the problem?

      Jessica McCormick
      Petition Organiser

      Yes. Over the past four years, Aquinas has heard from myself and other students, community members, and even from NAEHCY, NAEH, an individual who runs a program that supports homeless/foster students at a neighboring university, and the Michigan Department of Education. As of yet, they have not taken any action.

      This is NOT to say that Aquinas is a bad school. Aquinas makes amazing contributions to the community, and I am so proud for the opportunity to attend a great school. This is a challenge that plenty of colleges face. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to help my college with this.

      Change is difficult. It doesn't happen over night, and it isn't always easy. But as the Director of Residence Life and Housing once told me, "Nothing worth doing is easy." I am sure that with enough voices who are willing to stand up and show that it is a need, the college will jump at the opportunity to be part of the solution.

    3. Question: Are there any on-campus jobs, ways students can "earn" housing?

      Jessica McCormick
      Petition Organiser

      Yes, there are a limited number of on-campus jobs available, although not all foster/homeless students are able to access them. I am blessed to work a wonderful job in the on-campus bookstore, and I know that the majority of my earnings are used to pay for my tuition (~$35,000 a year: scholarships don't cover everything), my room and board, and meals. I can only imagine how students who are not fortunate enough are making it, and this explains why so few of entering freshman who are foster/homeless are unable to continue past their first semester or their first year, if they are lucky.

    4. 15,000?!?

      Jessica McCormick
      Petition Organiser

      Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign to find break housing for foster and homeless students.

    5. Reached 50,000 signatures
    6. My Story

      Jessica McCormick
      Petition Organiser

      In case any of you are curious, here is part of my story. However, mine is just one, and there are many, many more on my campus alone. What stories have you found in your communities?

      Putting College Within the Reach of Homeless Youth

      Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF)

    7. Reached 100 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • janice wendell WOODVILLE, TX
      • about 1 month ago

      when our own kids cant have housing for wich they pay for but exchange studenta r allowed?

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • raemona clark LARGO, FL
      • 3 months ago

      this can happen to anybody!

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • David Jones CHATTANOOGA, TN
      • 7 months ago

      You're ignorant if you're still homeless, I sent you information on how to obtain shelter basically any day of the year... CouchSurfing.org

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Michael Evans SICKLERVILLE, NJ
      • 8 months ago

      lets go people ,people are important get it? not what u think u cant spend,

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Christine Boudreau EAST GREENWICH, RI
      • 8 months ago

      A religious institution!! Shame on them for not proactively embracing this need...

      In fact, they need an alumni mentor group for kids pushed into early adulthood without support. Lots of

      ;empty nesters" would love to be paired with a student like this...get on it alumni office

      and, housing reps needs to allign policy with realistic needs

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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