SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – One in four college women report surviving rape or attempted rape at some point in their lifetime. 1,100 college students die by suicide annually. The new GI Bill offers college benefits to the nearly 2 million U.S. veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Disabled students are less than half as likely as their peers to attend college in the two years after high school.
What do all of these facts and figures have in common? College of the Canyons has several departments that offer services to help students in these and other areas.
COC provides facilities and programs geared toward health and wellness, adult re-entry, Veterans Affairs, disabled students, tutoring, career assistance, and financial aid to name a few.
The problem: COC students don’t seem to know that they exist. Administrators and faculty are working tirelessly to change that.
Dr. Anne Marenco, professor and chair of the Sociology Department, explained that “many students are not aware of the variety of services [offered at COC]. I tell them about a bunch of services, and they say they didn’t know about them. I put them on my syllabi and tell them in class, but I know that all professors don’t do this.”
Instructors are not the only ones who have noticed this lack of awareness. COC students, like Diane Estrada, are catching on as well.
“Working in the Financial Aid Department and in the Student Development Office, I’ve noticed that many students are not aware of the services available to them on campus,” said Estrada, who assists with student outreach and campus activities. “The whole point of having services and resources is for students to use them.”
Dana Levine, incoming president of the COC Associated Student Government, echoes these thoughts: “Being in ASG, I’ve learned a lot about what the school has to offer. There’s a club or a department for everyone. That’s why I’m especially surprised when I meet returning students who have never even utilized The Learning Center or free printing in the ASG computer lab.”
The college is working to determine what could be responsible for the miscommunication among students, faculty, and administrators.
In a December 2014 episode of Cougar News that focused on suicide prevention, Health and Wellness Assistant Director Larry Schallert explained that “three students at College of the Canyons have taken their own lives.”
Unfortunately, none of those students came to the Health and Wellness Center for help or counseling.
In the interview, Schallert offered two possible reasons for the miscommunication. “Either students don’t know about these programs or there is a stigma associated with getting help,” Schallert said.
Most would agree it is a combination of both unawareness and fear of feeling ashamed.
For example, when asked if she had ever taken advantage of any of the resources on campus, third-year student Taylor Ramsey said she had used the ASG computer lab, TLC, and counseling center.
“For all of them, I was required to complete a certain amount of hours for a class. So, if I hadn’t taken those classes, I probably never would have used or even known about those resources,” said Ramsey.
Finally, when asked if she knew that the Health and Wellness Center offered a multitude of services – including psychological counseling, nutrition evaluations, immunizations, and first aid – for free, Miss Ramsey responded: “No, I had no idea they offered any of that stuff! I’m not even sure where it is located on campus.”
Student participation in school programs, resources, and activities has been proven to be positively associated with educational achievement.
Researchers at the University of Illinois point out that student involvement has a positive impact on attaining a bachelor’s degree and on educational aspirations. Students who are actively engaged are more likely to have higher educational ambitions than uninvolved students.
Students who remain uninvolved report higher levels of dissatisfaction with their college experience and display decreased levels of intellectual, cultural, spiritual, and social contentment. Ultimately, they are less likely to graduate.
To address this issue, COC directors and staff members work year-round to make their programs and services more “visible” to the local student population while at the same time creating a welcoming environment on the campus.
On May 5 and 6, for example, the Health and Wellness Center hosted its third annual Shine a Light on Suicide Prevention & Awareness event where 1,100 lanterns were displayed in the Honor Grove representing the vibrant lives of college students lost to suicide each year.
In addition to professional representatives and an informational resource table, free pizza and giveaways were also provided at the event.
Similarly, students and staff in the Financial Aid Department hosted “Financial Aid Awareness Week” in April, where they offered free In-N-Out burgers to students.
“We give out free food every day for a week in exchange for surveys,” Miss Estrada explained. “Then we have a chance to really talk to students about financial aid.”
Departments hope that free food and giveaways will entice students to at least learn what resources are available to them. What students may not realize is that they can get free food and, often times, free services from these departments.
Staff members emphasize that it couldn’t be easier, cheaper, or more convenient for students to take advantage of the variety of services that College of the Canyons has to offer.
To increase their presence among the student body, nearly every single organization, club, and department has links to their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts on the COC website (www.canyons.edu), so that students can access important information at any time.
“College of the Canyons provides many services to students to make their educational experience a positive and enriching one,” Professor Tammera Stokes Rice said. “I wish more students would take advantage of them. College can be a very stressful time in their lives, but they do not have to go through it alone.”