As we enjoy another holiday season, amidst the lights and joviality, I find myself reflecting on the way our community comes together to serve each other. This time serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of the services our Basic Needs Centers at Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges provide throughout the year and how critical access to this support is to student success. As institutions of higher learning, it is the goal of our colleges to foster an environment where every student can not only learn but thrive.

The provision of basic needs services — covering essentials such as food, shelter, and healthcare — is a lifeline for students facing challenges that extend beyond their lecture halls. The students attending Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges are diverse, bringing with them unique backgrounds, aspirations, and, at times, challenges that may impede their academic pursuits. Two-thirds of California community college students reported they are impacted by at least one basic needs insecurity, according to a 2023 report published by the Community College League of California. Basic needs services like those offered by our Basic Needs Centers serve as a safety net, catching those who might otherwise slip through the cracks due to financial constraints, housing instability, or healthcare concerns.

One of the primary challenges faced by students is food insecurity. The Basic Needs Centers at our colleges have implemented innovative programs, such as food pantries and meal assistance initiatives, that distribute food to the students who need them throughout the semester. These services not only provide sustenance but also foster a sense of community, such as through Giving Trees and events like the Thanksgiving Meal pick-up.

During the holidays, however, while the campuses are closed for Winter Break, students still find themselves in need of support. Our Basic Needs Centers  also connect students with resources off campus, like helping with CalFresh applications and providing contact information for Food Share pop-up pantries.

Housing instability is another reality that the Basic Needs Centers address head-on. The lack of stable housing can be a profound impediment to academic success, creating a tumultuous environment where focusing on coursework becomes a secondary or tertiary concern. Through resources like housing referrals and providing connection to County services and local temporary housing, campus Basic Needs staff help students to find their next steps toward stability.

Another need that can dramatically impact a students’ ability to make the most of their education is access to healthcare. During the school year, students can make appointments with Student Health Center staff for comprehensive health and wellness services, for medical, nurse, or mental health appointments. Our colleges also connect students with local services throughout the county, providing contact information for clinics and vital mental health providers between academic terms.

At Moorpark, Oxnard, and Ventura colleges, we believe that fostering a culture of inclusivity and empathy is vital. It sends a powerful message to our students — that their well-being matters, that their struggles are acknowledged, and that there is a network of support ready to help them overcome obstacles. This cultural shift is transformative, creating a more compassionate and understanding educational environment where everyone feels welcome.

This holiday season, we recognize the collective effort that goes into sustaining these invaluable services. From dedicated staff members to community partnerships and the generosity of donors, the ecosystem supporting basic needs services is a collaborative endeavor — a testament to the shared commitment to nurturing the success of every student.

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