HCC, WHAM Partner for Student/Client Success | WESTCHASE DISTRICT

(Great things happening: Front row (left-right) are Mercedes Santos-Garay and Mark Brown of WHAM and Dr. Zachary Hodges and Dr. Rima Adil of HCC. They are joined by community partners supporting the new education initiative between WHAM and HCC.)

New MOU provides legal authority for life-changing initiatives

There is little argument that higher education can be transformative in moving individuals and families out of poverty. Numerous studies have documented how incomes and life expectancy increase with education. With that framework in mind, West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM) and Houston Community College (HCC) have formed a partnership to help clients at WHAM becomes students at HCC and to ensure that HCC students have the wrap-around support they need to be successful in school.

WHAM’s CEO Mark Brown and HCC Northwest President Dr. Zachary Hodges recently signed a memorandum of understanding for a two-way referral system. “Our program offers wrap- around support to ensure that these individuals are getting the support they need. We don’t refer them and just walk away,” said Hodges.

“The college student population has been historically overlooked since many in our community believe that this population is well-off,” added Brown. “What most don’t realize is that a significant percentage of college students are suffering from food insecurity, housing issues and mental illness. Those same issues are the ones affecting the families that come to us for help. That’s why we’re excited to join forces with HCC as we both address these challenges and tackle them head on.”

Student Pipeline

Students referred by WHAM will go through a streamlined application process at HCC, connecting them with a dedicated counselor who will guide them toward career certifications that can be accomplished in a short period of time. “For many of these students, higher education is not within their realm of understanding,” said Hodges. “To get them here to HCC is a big deal. To keep them here is an even bigger challenge, because many of them are one flat tire away from dropping out.”

Lisa Iparrea, chief programs officer at WHAM described a grant that WHAM has received to facilitate clients receiving training as a Certified Nurse Aide or CDL (commercial drivers license) driver. Both are programs offered at HCC. “We reviewed our client roster and identified individuals who would be appropriate for and interested in this type of training,” said Iparrea. “Our goal is to get more business for our customers,” said Sagissor. “We can help them operate more efficiently by upgrading their payment technology. Point-of-sale technology is so much more than taking payments. It’s about time clock operations, tip control, wages, inventory management and loss prevention. We can help a business owner operate more efficiently. But we can also help them earn repeat business through gift cards, text messages and customer surveys.”

Unique Partnership

Dr. Rima Adil, dean of student success at HCC describes this as a first-of-its- kind partnership. “We’re very intentional in helping them so they don’t fall through the cracks,” said Adil.

The program was born out of meetings between Adil and WHAM’s client services team that began in February. “We’re really just getting started,” added Iparrea. “Certificate classes don’t operate on the semester calendar, so we’ll be enrolling students starting in September. We’ll be meeting monthly with our counterparts at HCC to discuss referrals and outcomes. This program will be successful because of excellent casework on both ends of the pipeline.”

“The new Texas pipeline is not oil and gas,” said Hodges. “It’s human capital. Our job at HCC is to find the talent upstream, work to refine it and develop an educated, working, tax paying adult.” Added Brown, “Together, WHAM and HCC are on a mission to provide not just education, but to empower lives. By doing so, we envision a community thriving in resilience, self-sufficiency and prosperity.”