Aurora, CO – The Community College of Aurora (CCA) is being recognized for its commitment to prioritize student health beyond the classroom, through the achievement of two designations from the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE).
The recognition of CCA as a “Hunger Free and Healthy Minds” campus highlights their dedication to enhancing student success and well-being, both inside and outside of the classroom, by addressing food insecurity and access to mental health resources for CCA’s student population.
CCA President, Dr. Mordecai Brownlee said, “This designation further demonstrates our commitment to the health and well-being of our students. Providing access to nutritious food is essential to achieve our vision to be the college where every student succeeds.”
CDHE’s Social Determinants of Student Success project provided a call to action that is inspiring Colorado Colleges and Universities to recognize the importance of implementing basic needs security initiatives for students. This charge was consistent with CCA’s commitment to inclusive student learning and success.
Beau Green, Director of Student Advocacy said that “part of achieving CCA’s role as leader in the field of transformative academic excellence and ensuring students are transfer and career ready, involves starting with a deep understanding of their needs. When their essential needs are secure, students are able to leverage their strengths and meet their goals.”
CCA Dean of Student Success & Senior Student Affairs Officer, Dra. Reyna Anaya said of the designation, “CCA set a goal to achieve Hunger Free & Healthy Minds designations by Fall 2023 because we believed our students deserved support services that centered their whole person and wellness alongside their success.”
For example, according to CCA’s spring, 2023 needs assessment, 64.1% of CCA students identify as experiencing food insecurity – the limited or uncertain access to food.
The CDHE’s checklist for colleges to combat food insecurity enabled CCA to tailor initiatives to address three primary goals:
- Access: providing assistance to access food, by increasing the capacity of food pantries, creating meal sharing programs, and other methods.
- Awareness: Establishing programs to educate staff, faculty and students on hunger and the resources available to help.
- Integration: These programs and services bring together different departments on campus to address a variety of barriers to basic needs that impact student food security.
CCA’s tangible steps to alleviate food insecurity include four free snack stations located across campus, and a mobile snack unit launching this fall. Additionally, the school hosts Foxy’s Mobile Market (FMM) on a bi-weekly basis. FMM is a free food market designed to stock a student’s pantry for at least a week. A free Farmers Market event, funded through the Food Pantry Assistance Grant, featured Colorado grown produce available for the campus community during the Week of Welcome in August. Furthermore, CCA is working to become a SNAP Peas registered site, which will help students enroll in SNAP, with licensed CCA staff.
“The Office of Student Advocacy is committed to supporting students through a basic needs and 2Generational approach. We recognize that a student’s educational journey includes their family. Supporting basic needs access is necessary for students to be stable in their personal lives so they can thrive in their academic pursuits.” Megan Dempsey, Coordinator of Basic Needs and Student Wellness said.
The CDHE similarly established a checklist to address students’ mental health, an area that has long been prioritized at CCA. The Healthy Minds designation ensures:
- Access: These programs offer direct assistance to mental health services.
- Awareness: These programs raise awareness for mental health resources and educate staff, faculty and students.
- Prevention: These programs provide preventative services to address mental health and overall wellbeing.
To address mental health needs, the Office of Student Advocacy works to spotlight different issues every month with particular emphasis on mental health. The school provides relevant books on the topic, social movements around mental health, famous advocates and how they impact change, as well as CCA and local resources to support students and families.
In addition to mental health advocacy and information, CCA also provides free short term counseling through the BetterMynd platform. Virtual counseling is available during business hours and nights- as well as weekends, and is offered in three different languages. The Student Advocacy team partners with students requiring specialized care through referrals to community partners.
The CCA vision states that we are a campus where every student can succeed – these designations represent that vision in action through supporting students’ basic needs. We are excited to continue the innovative and intentional work of supporting students through resources and access to care.
About the Community College of Aurora:
The Community College of Aurora (CCA) provides high-quality instruction and student support services to Aurora and Denver, Colorado. With a vision to aspire to be a college where every student succeeds, CCA is the most diverse college in the State of Colorado. Focused on creating social and economic mobility for its students, the college offers courses on two (2) campuses, online, and through its high school concurrent-enrollment programs. For more information, visit www.ccaurora.edu.
Strategic Communications and Alumni Engagement
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