“Expanding the Aperture on Serving Parenting Students” panel discussion during the 2023 Real College California Basic Needs Summit

By Emily Morse

In December, I had the privilege of attending the 2023 Real College California Basic Needs Summit, sponsored by the Michelson 20MM Foundation. This transformative event, which was themed “Rising to the Challenge: Heroes for Basic Needs,” unveiled groundbreaking strategies and initiatives to meet students’ fundamental needs. During the Summit, a collective commitment emerged to recognize students’ basic needs as inherent human rights, and seamlessly integrate them into the very fabric of our societal, institutional, and individual perspectives—demonstrating attendees’ commitment to be catalysts of change.  

Tangible examples of this commitment can be found in Berkeley City College’s Basic Needs Center and in the GATEWAYS Housing Program. The Basic Needs Center stands as a testament to active student involvement—they are shaping the on-campus experience with projects ranging from free clothing closets and housing research to resolving food insecurities. When it comes to housing insecurity, mapping available resources and identifying ways to connect services across colleges is necessary, which is exactly what the Los Angeles Community College District and GATEWAYS Housing at Los Angeles Southwest College does. Collaborative endeavors, such as these, acknowledge the complexity of the issue and the need for a multifaceted solution.

Cassandra Flandre-Nguyen, president of the Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC)

Further highlighting the extension of collective efforts, breakout sessions revealed how campuses are leveraging peer-to-peer outreach and tapping into faculty involvement. Showcasing the power of faculty engagement, San Jose City Colleges’ Basic Needs Center collaborates with business faculty to seamlessly integrate basic needs marketing projects into the curriculum, which raises awareness among students and transforms classrooms into innovation hubs.

This collaborative spirit originated with Professor Joshua Kas-Osoka, whose innovative approach has left an indelible mark on San Jose City College’s Jaguar market, a free student food assistance program. Through strategic marketing projects, Professor Kas-Osoka in tandem with Basic Needs Coordinator Daniela Muñoz Martinez, Dr. Rene Alvarez, and Dr. J. Edward Stevenson, have successfully increased the utilization and visibility of essential resources. Their collaboration highlights the potential within our academic institutions and serves as a testament to the profound impact achieved through unified efforts.

The significance of uniting forces for a shared cause cannot be overstated; by joining together, institutions, students, and the community can achieve monumental strides in addressing the fundamental needs of our educational ecosystem. These approaches extend beyond the boundaries of traditional academics and are grounded in understanding and addressing the myriad challenges students face; they are vital support systems that ensure circumstantial barriers do not impede the noble pursuit of knowledge.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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