Transforming Lives Campaign helps students

Tender Love and care — Xavier Santibanez (Left), Andrea Marchetti, Celina Alvarez, Cecilia Cruz, David Vela, Marvin Martinez discuss the homeless population of students at East Los Angeles College during the panel discussion yesterday. CN/Steven Cardona

By Mauricio Batista and Elisa Nava (J-101 Staff Writers)

Homelessness has become an issue for students at East Los Angeles College.

Non-profit organizations such as the Transforming Lives Campaign (TLC) and Jovenes Inc offer help to students in need to acquire housing, food, and even clothes.

The TLC committee held a panel discussion yesterday to provide an update on the progress they have made with their partner Jovenes Inc.

Paul de La Cerda, executive director of the East Los Angeles  College Foundation, started the event by introducing speakers on the panel and briefly informed the audience about the problems homeless students face, ranging from having insufficient food to going place-to-place to have a place to sleep.

“1 in 5 students in the district were homeless, in fact on the ELAC campus, 70.3 percent of our students have experienced food insecurity,” said Cerda.

Speakers on the panel offered their insight on how the TLC has helped students.

Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees member David Vela gave information on how the Affordable Housing Development Program can benefit homeless students.

“Eighteen percent of the homeless population are students,” said Vela.

Vela is working with college presidents from Orange Coast, Sierra, and Compton Colleges to provide housing for students in need.

In addition, Vela also emphasized the importance of how mayors, CEOs and politicians have come together in an initiative to provide more housing.

Cruz told the audience that there are many underlying issues to why a student is having trouble.

“I sit down with them, have a conversation about what is going on in their lives and why they are having food insecurity and usually there are a lot of other issues or challenges that a student may be facing,” said Cecilia Cruz, ELAC Student Health Center coordinator.

However, by asking for help she is able to provide relief.

Executive Director of Housing Works Celina Alvarez stated it was important to find the root cause of poverty and homelessness to help prevent it from becoming a bigger issue.

Andrea Marchetti, Director of Jovenes Inc., spoke about their partnership with TLC and how they aim to provide permanent housing solutions to help students.

He followed up by saying education was very important and without committing to educational plans, life would be very difficult.

“Investing in higher education is a true way out of homelessness for young adults,” said Marchetti.

ELAC President Marvin Martinez reminded students to apply for the Pell Grant.

He is working on financial aid awareness to help notify students about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  resources and grants available.

At the end of the presentation Xavier Santibanez, ELAC student, shared his personal experience as a homeless student.

He also talked about how during this trying time of his life professors were able to help on the dilemma he was facing.

Cerda closed the event by thanking the panel members for their support and presented Marchetti a $10,000 check to Jovenes Inc on behalf of the ELAC Foundation.

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