Reasons to Celebrate: A New Year, New Hopes, and New Graduates

New Year’s is a time for resolutions. New goals and aspirations parade through our minds, exciting us with their sparkling possibilities. Yet we all know goals are hard to accomplish. More often than not, they’re forgotten too soon, left by the wayside as minds grow busy, habits return, and we witness our initial motivation shrinking from sight in the proverbial rear-view mirror. 

But there are a few for whom a goal carries enough weight and hope that their resolution sticks and they achieve what they are after.

This is why it’s such a pleasure to share with you the story of Dillon— a young man who met his goals and, while doing so, became the very first student to successfully complete CSS’ Stay the Course program!

The Stay the Course (STC) program was designed to address the personal, non-academic, social, and institutional barriers to success in community college. As you’re one of the generous donors who supported this program, we want you to see its success and to celebrate with us what’s possible when community college students— many of whom struggle with the daily pressures of poverty— have a support structure in place to help them set goals and eventually reach them.

Meet Dillion

Dillon is a full-time student at Columbus State Community College (CSCC) who also works part-time to make ends meet. Like so many community college students, because of economic disadvantage, Dillon faces disproportionate barriers to degree completion:

  • Less than 40% of community college students graduate within six years.
  • 2 in 3 community college students are food insecure.
  • 50% of community college students are housing insecure.

When Catholic Social Services’ Stay the Course (STC) program came to CSCC last year, Dillon immediately applied to the program to take advantage of its benefits, which include intensive case management services and emergency financial assistance, if needed.

Like many students in the STC program, Dillon pursued his education as a means of bettering himself and his family. But an immediate challenge presented itself. Dillon started school with an overwhelming amount of debt, which sprang from a catastrophic car accident in which he was involved. At the time of the accident, Dillon did not have medical insurance; thus, his medical expenses were not covered. The financial repercussions were severe and lasting. While Dillon hoped that an education would help him to secure a better job and find financial stability, he was also routinely bogged down with worry about his existing debt and ongoing education expenses.

One of the core supportive services supplied by the STC program is a Navigator, who serves as a Case Manager for each participating student, helping them proactively identify and address their unique challenges so that they are more likely to meet their academic goal of completing a degree. With Dillon’s financial matters weighing heavily on him, he turned to his Navigator for assistance. She was able to help Dillon create and achieve small action steps that began moving him toward his financial goals. Over the course of a year, he worked toward paying off $5,000 in debt and pursued a new certification, which helped him to secure a new professional opportunity and some economic relief along with it.

Additionally, Dillon’s Navigator was able to provide him with greater awareness around government issued health insurance options and helped him find other resources that could assist in paying qualified medical expenses, should another catastrophic event occur in the future. He was also coached around being more proactive in relation to future medical bills. This support helped in the moment and will also equip Dillon for the long run with practical knowledge that will help him avoid falling back into debit.

While financial matters were successfully being addressed, Dillon had other concerns. He felt the support of his STC Navigator, but he also still felt trepidation around his burgeoning dreams related to what he might accomplish beyond CSCC. He was beginning to envision larger goals; working with his STC Navigator, he decided to apply to The Ohio State University (OSU) in hopes of furthering his education, earning a bachelor’s degree, and eventually landing his dream job as a Real Estate Agent. He aspired to focus his education on urban planning and development.

While Dillon knew that a bachelor’s degree would take him further toward his personal and professional goals, he worried about getting lost at a large state institution. As he’d done before, Dillon shared his fears with his Navigator, and with her help, was able to identify resources at OSU that would help him to feel welcomed and equip him with tools for success after he transferred. His Navigator reached out to OSU directly and helped to link Dillon with an inclusive program sponsored by the Department of Diversity and Inclusion that serves minority Pell-eligible students.

Throughout his time in the STC program, Dillon has worked hard to persist in school while confronting and overcoming several personal challenges, including financial strains and the ongoing pressures of online education during a pandemic. He has persevered and continues to excel. In fact, due to his hard work and strong academic background, Dillon was recently accepted to OSU—and was also awarded a scholarship, which will help to significantly reduce the overall amount of his education debt.

Dillon completed the STC program in December. With the steadfast help of his Navigator, he has been able to view his challenges as opportunities for growth, has developed a deeper sense of financial responsibility, and has set himself up for success as he takes on the new challenge of finishing his bachelor’s degree at OSU. He is grateful for the encouragement and unwavering support of his Navigator in helping him to stay on track, dream big, and achieve his goals.

We are extremely proud of Dillon and wish him all the best as he transfers to OSU and begins the next chapter of his education. As the first completion of the STC program, Dillon is a trailblazer. It’s full speed ahead for him, as his new year is off to a tremendous and promising start!

Thank you for your role in supporting Dillon, and others like him, with your generous donation to CSS!

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