Lissette Padilla Utilizes Innovative Communiations Solutions
One challenge faced when staff and faculty transitioned to remote work and students transitioned to online only classes was communication. West Hills Community College District set up two innovative virtual resource hubs, webpages linking to private video chats where students could speak with financial aid, student services and more. However, complex times sometimes require unique solutions. For Academic Advising Specialist Lissette Padilla, that meant leveraging WhatsApp, a phone app for chat. Out of concern, an instructor had reached out to West Hills College Coalinga President Brenda Thames regarding an international student at WHCC who had been displaced due to the closure of the on campus residence halls. No one could reach the student via email so Lissette found a creative solution: reach out to the student via WhatsApp, a chat app popular with international students, who often don’t have American phone numbers. Lissette found the student was living in a hotel in Coalinga with no kitchen space and were struggling with food and internet. Lissette connected the student with the West Hills College Coalinga Food Pantry.
“It was honestly a no-brainer for me; I have an open-door policy and wanted to recreate that as much as possible to allow the students just to come and chat with me,” said Padilla. “I believe in holistically serving the student’s needs. I will not only try my best to help the students be academically successful but successful within all aspects of their lives.”
Win Center Offeres Students Online Career and Job Help
When West Hills College Lemoore went remote learning only, the WHCL Win Center stepped up and made sure that their career development and employment skills training remained available to students, completely online. The Golden Eagle WIN (Workforce Internship Networking) Center connects and supports the career pathways of all students and alumni by providing job listings, career workshops and events, career assessment, employer networking opportunities, internships and activities that result in the establishment of or advancement of personalized career goals. Since the transition online in late March, WIN has continued to offer services including career exploration, resume review and writing assistance, job searching, and interview preparation.
The center has continued offering students workshops virtually and even help a virtual job fair and bi-weekly Biz Chats where students can engage with career professionals.
“There was some hesitancy when switching to online events and services, but students and our industry partners have been responding positively since this change,” said Tamara Warren, Career Technical Education Coordinator at West Hills College Lemoore. “Students have been more involved and engaged in this format and our industry partners are enjoying it as well since partnering with us in this manner is easier for them than taking time out of their work day to visit campus.”
This summer, virtual workshops and Biz Chats are continuing.
“Providing students with opportunities to build their career network, grow soft skills, gain work experience, and explore career options is necessary for our students to make the best educational and career choices for themselves and their families,” said Warren. “We want our students to be great employees once they graduate so that they find quality work and stay employed in a field that fulfills them. This goal is vital to the success and well-being of our students, even more so with unemployment numbers rising. For these reasons it’s paramount we continue in this work and serve our students in whatever capacity we have available.”
West Hills College Coalinga Food Pantry
Thanks to a grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office Hunger Free Campus Initiative and the hard work of West Hills College Coalinga Food Service Manager Jay Darnell, West Hills College Coalinga students have not gone hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Darnell has been working tirelessly to keep the pantry stocked with healthy food and to make the pantry accessible to students.
He’s even been delivering to students himself, making sure they’re fed. The pantry had been in operation and serving students before COVID-19 but has played a massive role in responding to student needs during the pandemic.
“Not being on campus hasn’t changed student needs,” said Darnell. “They still have to eat. Students who were struggling financially before are still struggling and in some cases more so. When you go to the local supermarkets and grocery stores, especially when this all started there was no rice, no pasta. We already had those in the food pantry. We were able to provide for our students. We don’t want them to have to eat ramen everyday. On top of all this, our students are still taking classes. Life is stressful. We want to make sure our students still have a tasty meal.” Students can choose from staples ranging from pasta to cereals to flour to meat. Options include fresh food and even healthy frozen meals. Toilet paper and paper towels are also available to students.
According to Darnell, the best part of making sure the needs of students are met has been the joy on their faces when they see the pantry and the food they can take home. Darnell wants all students to know they are welcome and that this food is for them. “We’ve only touched a fraction of the students who actually need help,” he said. “There are more students who need the help that aren’t aware of this resource or are embarrassed to ask for it. We want those students to understand what we do is confidential. We want to make sure students are comfortable. We follow social distancing and keep everything sanitized at the pantry. It’s not about embarrassing anyone. It’s for every student, part time or full time. The pantry is there for them.” Students can make an appointment to visit the pantry at westhillscollege.com/coalinga
West Hills College Coalinga and West Hills College Lemoore Libraries Rise to Virtual Challenge
The WHCL and WHCC libraries have risen to the challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, including directing students to the ample online resources they provide online. The library provides resource guide, study guides and even some online tutoring. WHCL recently also launched an online magazine library. Students have also been able to speak with library staff online during the duration of online learning and rent textbooks online.