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Friday, August 14, 2020

Feeding students’ bodies and souls

When D’arcy Corwin was a college student, she didn’t know who to talk to about the resources made available to her. Now, she’s helping students avoid similar uncertainties.

Corwin is the Brahma Pantry and Basic Needs lead at Pierce College. She connects students on a case-by-case basis with resources on campus and throughout the San Fernando Valley to make school less challenging.

Whether it’s academic stress, food insecurity or mental health concerns, Corwin continuously aids students with their individual circumstances. 

“You don’t really realize how such little things can mean so much to people,” Corwin said. “Having the opportunity to meet so many students through the pantry and check in on them and ask them how they’re doing is about having the focus really be on them because every student has a unique story and a difficult path that they’re walking.”

The Woodland Hills native first attended Santa Monica College and later graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. She received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Communities and Culture in 2013. 

The internship opportunities she experienced during this time, such as teaching literature courses in Spanish at MEND (Meet Each Need with Dignity), inspired her to get her master’s degree in social work at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).

“I was always the type of person who didn’t really understand what they wanted to do, so I tried to put myself into places that I could get hands-on experiences,” Corwin said. “The more that I put myself out there to do more internships, the more I realized how I could change someone’s life.”

During the final year of earning her Master’s at CSUN, she began interning at Pierce, where she tried to help students create a sense of community on campus.

“Sometimes you feel like a little blimp. You’re here and you don’t know where to go [or] who to talk to,” Corwin said. “I feel that most students, when you connect with them and try to create that network and build that community, or help them feel like it’s a community, it can take them a lot further.”

Once hired to work at Pierce in 2015, Corwin worked with Dean of Student Engagement Juan Carlos Astorga and Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters to establish the Brahma Pantry. 

The pantry began as a trial from 2018-2019 through a grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to combat student food insecurity. 

Kinesiology student Elijah Cowart has been using the service since 2018. He said it is a popular student resource because Corwin makes students feel “welcomed.”

“D’arcy is super nice, super respectful and makes the process super easy when you come,” Cowart said. 

Jocelyn Sarria is another student impacted by Corwin since her relocation from northern California to study neuroscience at Pierce.

At the time, Sarria didn’t have a job and became food insecure.

During Club Rush, she discovered St.A.S.H. (Students Against Student Hunger) and signed up to volunteer for the pantry service on campus, as well as utilize the resource. 

Now in her second year as a volunteer, she has experienced the significance of Corwin’s work at Pierce.

“She goes far and beyond to help students, not just with pantry but any other necessity, whether it’s financial aid or special services,” Sarria said. 

Corwin also assists St.A.S.H when needed.

“I’ve come across people who don’t really care about the students, but D’arcy does care,” Sarria said. “I know that a lot of people were ashamed of getting free food and I know that what she’s doing is normalizing it. If it wasn’t for D’arcy, people wouldn’t be as comfortable coming and getting free food.”

For the new semester, the Brahma Pantry will operate from pop-up locations on campus that are yet to be finalized. 

In the meantime, students seeking resources can visit Corwin at the Associated Students Organization building on Mondays through Thursdays to receive snacks and get connected to further organizations, on and off campus. 

“The Brahma Pantry is not just a place to get food. It’s a place where we put students first,” Corwin said. “We just want students to know that it’s not just about coming and grabbing a snack, but it’s about a place where they can come and work through those challenges in a safe environment. We’re ready to help students find a network of support.”

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