CalWORKS joins the season of giving

College can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for students with children. 

CalWORKS is a state-funded program that provides financial assistance and services to eligible students with children to help pay for housing, food, medical care and other necessary expenses. 

Claudia Velasco, the director of CalWORKS, hopes to help parents with their academic careers.

“No one student’s challenges are more important than others. But when you come to school and you are struggling with food and housing, it is harder for a parent, especially if you’re a single parent, to be raising a child,” Velasco said. 

On Wednesday, Dec. 4, CalWORKS is hosting Winter Celebration, an event that collects toys from community members to give to CalWORKS participants for their children. 

“I’m overwhelmed with how the campus has responded because this is the first time we’ve tried this, and we currently are serving 136 participants,” Velasco said. “I know Pierce is a giving community, but they surpassed our expectations.” 

The Winter Celebration will be held in Building 600 and include a breakfast for the students and the distribution of toys for the families. 

To be eligible for CalWORKS, parents must first get approval from Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN), a county program that provides employment-related services. Pierce CalWORKS counselors help with the application process. 

Paola Beaver, an office assistant at CalWORKS and previous CalWORKS participant, now helps students get started with the program. 

“When you’re first starting and setting it up, it’s a lot of work,” Beaver said. “Just like when you first sign up for college, it’s so much work. So here I can share my experience with them and say, ‘that’s how this is, don’t worry about it.’ And then just calmly walk them through it and reassure them.” 

CalWORKS offers many support services including academic counseling, work-study opportunities, informative workshops, skills development, advocacy for child care and individualized students education plans. 

Leticia Conley, a student services assistant case manager, also was a CalWORKS participant in her college years. Her background and life experiences inspired her to work for the program. 

“When I was younger, I was a foster kid and I had a lot of people who really helped me to progress in my life, so I decided I wanted to do the same thing,” Conley said. “That’s the reason why I decided to work for LACCD to help other students progress in their lives.” 

According to Velasco, the program helps over 100 students each semester.

“Even though it’s not a huge population, it’s a population in need,” Velasco said.