Treasure Valley Community College plans to use the new funds to provide $36,000 in stipends directly to students.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story used she/her pronouns to refer to Oswaldo Avila. Avila uses he/him pronouns. The Enterprise apologizes for this error.

ONTARIO – Treasure Valley Community College, which serves a student body of 31% students of color, has been awarded a $55,000 state grant to expand services for historically marginalized students.

The grant, provided by the state Higher Education Coordination Commission, was received in partnership with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, which encompasses Ontario’s Four Rivers Welcome Center. 

Cathy Yasuda, executive director of the Treasure Valley Community College Foundation, said she is excited to put the money to use after a competitive application process during which the college was pitted against larger, better-resourced institutions.

“I think we presented a pressing need for why we could really use these funds,” Yasuda said.

“We see potential for this collaboration to enhance options for our high school students interested in postsecondary opportunities,” said Jenny Bremner, director of development and communications at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization.

As of 2017, TVCC enrolled 640 students of color.

According to grant documents, $36,000 will pay for student stipends for training, mentoring and tutoring. The rest of the money will be used to support existing staff to act in new coordinating, advising and recruiting efforts. 

The grant, said Yasuda, enables the college to expand its services to populations that need more support to stay in school. 

A recent article from the Hechinger Report detailed the outsized impact that the Covid pandemic has had on low-income and first-generation students, many of whom are also students of color. Rising unemployment is more harmful for families with less generational wealth, and virtual learning is a challenge for those without stable housing or internet connections. In a rural area like Malheur County, where public transport is virtually nonexistent, not having a car can also become an issue for would-be students.  

These are the kinds of problems the stipends are designed to address. 

“The funds could not be used for scholarships, so these training stipends are really going to help support students in other ways,” said Yasuda. “If they need computer equipment, or if they need childcare or gas, all of those other basic needs that sometimes really present barriers to students in their education, that’s what we’re going to provide.”

Summer Townsend, vice president of Treasure Valley Community College’s Associated Student Government, was one of two students interviewed by Osvaldo Avila, the Higher Education Coordinating Committee administrator who oversaw grant process. Townsend, who is Native American from the Pueblo of Acoma, said that only a few months after her conversations with Avila, TVCC had already put students’ request for a diversity club into action.

“For Treasure Valley being in such a small town and area, they are so inclusive of everybody,” said Townsend. “I’ve never once felt like I was just a number at this school.”

“The focus to use data-driven best practices to increase the completion of degrees and credentials while eliminating barriers for the indigenous and students of color was a key factor as we were looking for race-conscious strategies to support,” said Avila.

He said college president Dana Young “is striving to make TVCC a great institutional for all students, and her effective leadership was apparent from the input of the staff and the students we had the opportunity to hear during the interview process.”

Staff at Treasure Valley Community College hope to implement the rest of the new resources gathered just as quickly as they mobilized the diversity club.

“We’re kind of in that excitement phase, but now we’re having to figure out what is the actual rolling out process going to look like,” said Abby Lee, associate vice president for Treasure Valley Community College.

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577. 

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