Victory
Petitioning President of Aquinas College Dr. Juan Olivarez and 2 others

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


*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!

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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

Letter 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
I am writing to implore that you deeply consider providing safe break housing for foster and homeless students attending Aquinas College. During their studies, it is essential for them to have a semi-permanent and stable housing situation, especially because this vulnerable population may have lacked such in the past. Excluding foster and homeless students from exempt fall and spring break stays, as well as expunging them for the three week winter holiday break, could have major negative impacts on their mental and physical health, their ability to perform in school, their ability to attend school, and so many more important aspects of their lives. Please consider the already delicate situation of these students as well as the numerous challenges to their education which they are already facing, and consider relieving them of one universal barrier that they are stumbling upon. In the Dominican spirit of Aquinas College, to increase the ability to study, to promote the charisms of community and service, and to fulfill the action of faith within prayer.