Whether you’re taking six credits or fifteen, it’s never easy to be a college student. Arguably, it’s harder now than ever with the increasing costs of living, which can be especially difficult for students who also support families of their own. It can be easy to fall through the cracks, especially if you believe myths about life in college (eating only top ramen, or not eating at all because you can’t afford rent along with groceries.)
But here’s the thing, as a student, you should be able to focus on your classes, and working toward your certificate or degree. Starting this fall, a program at TMCC can help you to reach your academic and professional goals without worrying about where your next meal will come from. This program, called SNAP Employment and Training (SNAPET), is a new partnership with the Nevada Department of Welfare and Supportive Services that can assist under-resourced students in acquiring skills and education while receiving the support that can enable them to obtain regular employment and economic self-sufficiency.
Before you think this program isn’t for you, read on—you might discover an extra support service that can help you as you work toward a Career or Technical degree or certificate at TMCC.
How Do I Know if I Qualify?
If you have ever been a week away from your next paycheck and you’re unsure of how to afford another week’s worth of meals, you may very well qualify for SNAP benefits. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and is intended to help those who are food-insecure and with low incomes to obtain healthy food.
“There are a lot of students who don’t believe they are eligible for food benefits but that’s not the case,” said Travis Sharpe, coordinator for the TMCC Re-Entry and Job Prep programs. For students who want to complete a CTE certificate or degree at TMCC, the SNAP Employment and Training program can provide much-needed assistance that can make budgeting for food and, in some cases, school supplies much easier.
Additionally, students can become eligible if they meet a few criteria listed by the USDA, which includes students who are participating in work-study and work at least 20 hours a week, are taking care of dependents at home, and are taking college classes. “Not only does the Re-Entry Center want to connect with active SNAP participants, but we also want to make sure students that are eligible apply,” said Camille Vega, Re-Entry Coordinator. “Often people don't apply because they don't think they're eligible...but, as you can see on the USDA website, there are many ways for students to become eligible for this program.”
Bottom line: if you are currently receiving SNAP benefits or become eligible, you should apply for SNAPET. Once you’re approved for SNAPET, you will need to enroll in classes in a qualifying TMCC program.
How Can This Program Help?
In addition to providing financial assistance for healthy food, the SNAPET program also provides support to help students be successful, such as navigating through the campus processes and potentially assistance in procuring school supplies like textbooks for classes or equipment for lab-type classes (for example, providing welding supplies for a student enrolled in a welding program). In some cases, SNAPET also helps with paying for classes.
Because the Re-Entry Center administers SNAPET, in addition to the supports outlined above, participating students will be connected to community resources, as needed.
“This program is really here to help a person connect to the resources they need to be successful,” said Sharpe, who teaches the 16-week Getting Ahead Workshop—another resource he encourages SNAPET participants to use—that teaches students practical skills like budgeting and time management that can help them to be successful not only in college but in life. Completers of the Getting Ahead Workshop are able to access additional resources like microloans through Opportunity Alliance, or they can attend resource nights taught by subject-area experts.
Success, though, comes in all shapes and sizes. “Success, to me, is that a first-generation student who never thought of themselves as ‘college material’ can enroll at TMCC,” said Sharpe. “I remember working with a student through the enrollment process and then walking him to the Welcome Center to get his Student ID card. He just stared at the card and started smiling. He told me ‘I can’t believe I’m a college student.’ Something shifts in a person in moments like that—it can help a person realize that the negative thoughts about themselves aren’t necessarily true. That Student ID can provide a big boost of self-confidence.”
Students who are interested in learning more about the SNAP Employment and Training Program and other resources offered through the Re-Entry Center should contact the department at any point during the year at 775-673-7060.