Crafton Hills College (CHC) in Yucaipa, has added a new source of support for students who could use a boost: an emergency grant program known as “Finish Line.”
The funds were donated by the Jay Pritzker Foundation, which earmarked a total $100 million to be allocated to the California Community College system over 20 years to fund its Finish Line Scholars Program, a program designed to help students who are on their way to completing their certificates, degrees, or transfer studies at the college.
Wadetreas Gray, a 37-year-old single parent and CHC student, said it is already working for her. “I need to better my life for my children,” she said. “It starts with me having a good career.”
Gray said CHC has become a family to her, helping her to study respiratory therapy, a challenge partly inspired by a daughter with severe asthma.
“They were always there pushing me,” Gray said of her Crafton family. “There were times I was so overwhelmed I wanted to quit. But the school has so many programs that helped me. Without Crafton, I feel that I would have given up.”
CHC received $128,000 to provide scholarships and emergency assistance this year for nearly 600 students. Like Gray, they were struggling to stay enrolled in classes during the pandemic.
“This unparalleled level of support for our students will be life-changing,” said Eloy Ortiz Oakley, Chanc-ellor of the California Community Colleges. “We are grateful to the Jay Pritzker Found-ation for their generosity and recognition of the California Commun-ty Colleges as a vehicle for transformative change.”
Michelle Riggs, who works in the Crafton Hills College Found-ation office, said one of the most helpful parts of the grant is that it continues for 20 years. The money is designed to help students overcome obstacles, such as homelessness, poverty, experience in the foster care system, re-entry into college because of military service or status as LGBTQ.
“Our goal is to smooth the bumps in the road so that students can finish their degrees and start their careers,” Riggs said.
This year the money has been used strictly for emergency grants of up to $500 per student. Next year, Riggs said, the college will have another $125,000 to provide $5,000 scholarships for 20 students, as well as some emergency grants.
“We require recipients to meet with their counselors before receiving the money,” Riggs said. “That helps students stay on track to complete their programs, transfer to the California State University or University of California systems or get into the workforce.” Riggs said the community college system is in the best position to lift barriers and to support students while they find their way. “It is a guided pathway,” she said.
Gray said CHC is helping her succeed. Her children range in age from 19 down to her little 6-year-old with asthma. Her oldest attends Chaffey College, and her second oldest has just enrolled at CHC, like his mom.