|September, 11, 2019 | Kimberly Landeros | reporter|
First-generation student Autumn Henry was feeling discouraged.
Henry didn’t have any idea how he could succeed, until he saw the Family Empowerment Center.
“I was on my way to the financial aid office to see what other options there were for me when I stumbled upon the FEC,” Henry said. “They saw the discouragement on my face, and they welcomed me.”
The FEC is on South Campus, but the Stay the Course program is available on all TCC campuses.
The main goal of the center is to help students complete college despite issues, such as financial adversities. Students who qualify should receive an email to their inbox titled “Stay the Course.”
Since 2013, the center has collaborated with Catholic Charities. Stay the Course caseworkers are on campus to help facilitate biweekly advisory meetings, which provide guidance on study-related and external matters.
The center’s future goals include creating a family support system, establishing housing for students, providing child care, facilitating financial resources and “helping with legal aid for students who wish to further their education,” said center coordinator Yolanda Sifuentes.
The center provides free educational sessions and services including financial coaching, health and wellness, immigrant services legal aid, GED preparation in both English and Spanish and job preparation.
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It also helps with academic advising, income tax preparation, scholarships for short-term vocation training, legal services, veterans services and resources for displaced veterans and those at risk for homelessness.
Since working with the center, Henry has been able to make the dean’s list and is on her way to graduating cum laude.
“They’re my cheerleaders,” Henry said. “I left the [center] that day with a whole support team.”
Like Henry, college student José Guzmán once felt the same discouragement.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Guzmán said. “[It was] another level.”
Guzmán moved from Mexico to the U.S. as a teen. Getting settled was difficult for him because he didn’t speak English and felt he had to hide.
Despite this, Guzmán had aspirations to become a teacher, and so he began working toward his associate degree at TCC.
After looking for resources and reaching what felt like a dead end, Guzmán finally found himself at the center, where he said he found the support he was seeking.
“It’s not easy to say you need help,” Guzmán said. “At the FEC, adversity does not limit you. At the FEC, they will help you find the resources to aid in your success.”
Guzmán recalled a time during his university search with the FEC when he and advisers went to visit Texas A&M University-Commerce.
His aspirations reached a standstill after graduation, as his immigration status would not allow him to teach. Despite setbacks, Guzmán now works with Proyecto Inmigrante advocating for students seeking legal aid. He is also completing his master’s in higher education administration at Texas A&M University-Commerce.
“The FEC welcomes students,” Guzmán said. “No matter how big or small the issue, they can help,” Guzmán said.