Financial, academic support boosts new mother

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Student Amy Ketcheson says life hasn’t always been easy, but she’s found encouragement and vital emotional and financial support through SFCC’s TRIO Student Support Services. The program, which serves low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities, has just been awarded $275,100 annually for the next five years.

“I’m grateful for what I have, but a lot of times it seems like the future is so uncertain especially during this time,” Ketcheson said. “For a long time, I felt like really no one cared about me or my future. My life has really changed since coming to the college,” Ketcheson said.

The 32-year-old is not only juggling a full load of classes, but also caring for her 8-month-old son, Atlas. Prior to when the pandemic shutdown began last March, she was working 20-30 hours as a bartender at the VFW in Santa Fe. She considers herself fortunate that she was a recipient of unemployment, but her benefits were greatly reduced when Congress struggled to reach an agreement to extend any type of supplemental income to the unemployed. Adding to the situation, her partner and the father of her son, Dynamite Sol, who prior to the pandemic was one of the city’s most in-demand DJs, has had few gigs in recent months. He has applied for but has not yet received unemployment compensation under the gig worker provision.

It was through TRIO that Ketcheson learned about and received the LANL Career Pathways Scholarship and the City of Santa Fe and SFCC Foundation Scholarship for Veterans and their Dependents. TRIO also provides Ketcheson free one-on-one tutoring and access to online support chats. “I don’t take any of the scholarship money for granted. It inspires me to not only keep my grades up, but to excel,” she said. “This has been a challenging time but taking my classes online has been ideal. I need to stay home with the baby, and this is the perfect way for me to keep enrolled at the college.”

Ketcheson is pursuing an associate degree in Computer Science. She found, ironically, that when the pandemic hit, she had insufficient computer equipment at home. She is grateful to have become a recipient of SFCC’s Foundation’s Student Emergency Assistance Fund, money she used along with unemployment funds to purchase a proper computer set-up so she can continue her studies from home. “I really saw that it was important to invest in myself – and my future,” she said.

TRIO offers vital services
Interim Director Danielle Gonzales said the recent federal TRIO grant award will allow the college to provide critical services. She added, “It can be difficult to acclimate to the college experience, but SFCC’s TRIO students have a chance to thrive through the personal interaction that our services afford. We have a dedicated and resilient staff who work diligently to continue to serve our students during the pandemic.”

In addition to TRIO’s proactive, personalized outreach, staff continues to offer the following online and phone services:

  • Advising
  • Tutoring in math, science, writing
  • Scholarship searches and application assistance – including assistance with writing personal statements
  • Workshops, which include topics such as: financial literacy, financial aid Q&A and FAFSA assistance, how to be a successful online student, self-care and stress management, navigating the “new normal”
  • Personalized navigation sessions for Microsoft Teams, Outlook, Canvas and weekly drop-in sessions for any technology related questions;
  • Cyber Cafes – opportunities for students to gather to connect, chat, share, laugh, etc.;
  • STEMinars – small seminars featuring guest speakers from various STEM related professionals that allow students personalized insight into fields that may be of interest
  • Virtual College tours for students interested in transferring to a four-year college or university, and
  • Virtual Cultural Events including virtual tours of local museums and streaming of culturally relevant movies.

Learn more and apply online at TRIO Support Services. See more details about how this TRIO federal grant benefits SFCC students.  

SFCC Stats for TRIO Students
Of the 3,689 degree-seeking students enrolled at SFCC in Fall 2019, 75 percent met the eligibility requirements for services. Of those:

  • 409 students were both low-income and first-generation college students
  • 821 were low-income students
  • 1,499 were first-generation college students
  • 45 were students with disabilities

The federal grant will fund up to 160 students per year through TRIO Student Support Services.