Empowerment Center opens to support students beyond the classroom

CYPRESS — Five years in the making, The Empowerment Center has officially opened with a food pantry, career closet and additional resources to support Lone Star College-CyFair’s students and staff in need.

“The Empowerment Center is a faculty-led initiative developed as an effort to provide support for the whole student,” said Dean Jason LaPres. “We are proud of the collaboration among our employees that is already making this much needed center a success.”

Professor Hilary Harris, co-chair of the center’s task force, said this center will not only facilitate access of resources to address basic immediate needs, but also expand to offer additional services to meet evolving needs.

“This center is LSC-Fair’s commitment to stepping up to the plate and making sure no stone is left unturned when it comes to helping our students succeed in a really challenging environment,” said Harris.

“Food insecurity is a growing concern nationally among colleges and universities, and it is a growing concern locally at our campus as well,” said The Empowerment Center Faculty Fellow Gail Marxhausen. “Our students and employees have been very generous in keeping the pantry stocked for those in our college family who need to use the pantry. We are also engaging with community partners to see how we can provide a variety of other resources and/or access to those resources to continue to help our students succeed.”

While community college faculty are content experts and can redesign curriculum and instructional methodologies to help students succeed academically, LSC-CyFair faculty and staff have recognized that help with non-academic, non discipline-specific issues are needed as well, Harris said.

“As teachers, we help our students with their long-term goals – getting a degree and getting a good career – but at The Empowerment Center, we can also give them the resources they need at that particular moment to be able to stay in school and be successful, and that’s very rewarding,” said Julie Wilbur, professor and center volunteer.

Support began with moving the Food for Thought: Lone Star College-CyFair Food Pantry, already in existence, to the center, now in its permanent space located in CASA 121.

Volunteering at the center has been an eye-opening experience for Professor Lisa Brashier.

“I have learned many students are doing the best they can to improve their quality of life and they are choosing tuition over food as a way to do that,” said Brashier. “Volunteering is such a simple way I can help to better their future.”

Since September 2017, the center has had more than 450 visits. In the fall of 2017, 1,219 food and non-food items (toiletries and school supplies) were given to those in need, with another 3,334 food and non-food items given between January and August 2018.

“We want to bring forward all of the services we are going to offer students as robustly as we’re bringing forward the food pantry. But we started with the most immediate need first,” said Harris.

The Empowerment Center now houses The Career Closet – with clothing, shoes and accessories to create appropriate outfits for interviews that recipients can keep – and a dedicated counselor who is available to assist students with career counseling and accessing community resources as needed.

For information on The Empowerment Center, located in the Center for Academic and Student Affairs (CASA) room 121, email Gail@Lonestar.edu  or go to LoneStar.edu/CyFair-Empowerment.

Helping more than 22,000 students reach their academic and career goals, Lone Star College-CyFair is the 5th comprehensive college in the Lone Star College System, located at 9191 Barker Cypress Road just three miles south of U.S. Highway 290. Tomorrow also starts today at the LSC-Fairbanks Center, located at 14955 Northwest Freeway and LSC-Cypress Center, located at 19710 Clay Road. For more information about LSC-CyFair and its programs, call 281.290.3200 or visit LoneStar.edu/cyfair.

Lone Star College offers high-quality, low-cost academic transfer and career training education to 99,000 students each semester. LSC is training tomorrow’s workforce today and redefining the community college experience to support student success. Stephen C. Head, Ph.D., serves as chancellor of LSC, the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area with an annual economic impact of nearly $3 billion. LSC consists of six colleges, eight centers, two university centers, Lone Star Corporate College and LSC-Online. To learn more, visit LoneStar.edu.

Celebrating the official opening of The Empowerment Center at Lone Star College-CyFair are from left, LSC-CyFair President Dr. Seelpa Keshvala, faculty and staff members Gail Marxhausen, Dr. Hilary Harris, Christina Longoria, Angelica Sutton, Melissa Rosson, Dr. Heidi Jo Green, Pam Reed, Dean Jason LaPres and Aurora Lugo. (Courtesy photo)

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