KSU CARE Services, A National Model
Many students struggling to attend college without the normal family support from parents face a range of insecurities that often go unspoken and unnoticed including homelessness. To address this, Kennesaw State University has on its campus an organization dedicated to helping students who are experiencing foster care, homelessness and/or food insecurity.
Now in its 10th year, KSU CARE Services is the single point of access to services and resources both on and off campus for Kennesaw State students.
Marcy Stidum, the director of the program said many people are completely unaware that college homelessness is an issue. She credits the first student they served, Penelope, in helping bring the issue forward. Says Stidum, “At that time, there was not a name for the service. Because of her we are where we are today.” KSU CARES serves 650-700 yearly and has served about 3,000 students since its inception with Penelope.
KSU Cares offers four programs with two being direct support to KSU students. Emergency assistance supports those students experiencing financial hardship, in partnership with financial aid.
There are six key areas: two grocery-style pantries that offer freedom of food choices — one at each campus — case management, temporary housing, public benefits, scholarships, and ASCEND.
ASCEND offers mentoring and on-campus housing options where students who experienced homelessness and/or foster care while in high school can live together at Kennesaw State’s Marietta Campus.
According to Stidum, the two top needs for KSU students are pantry and case management, but notes that students get connected to all the services. She also points to the national coverage KSU Cares has received saying, “Our program has been documented three or four times as a national best practice.”
With the success of their program, Stidum says they launched CARE Roadmap, the organization’s national training program that provides a way for colleges to learn from KSU’s successes, failures, and strategic plans for the future.
“We are welcoming schools to learn from us and help craft something that is unique and special to their campuses,” Says Stidum. “We developed the CARE RoadMap to ensure that any academic institution can assist their special populations of students in need as they transition through college. We have seen firsthand how beneficial these initiatives are to Kennesaw State students, and we are eager to expand that impact by sharing this proven model with other schools.”
At the national level, KSU’s CARE Services is recognized as a National Best Practice Model by the National Center for Homeless Education, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and SchoolHouse Connection.
KSU Care has received donations from several individuals, foundations, and corporations including the Beacon Foundation Charitable Trust, Kroger, and Serta Simmons Bedding.
For more information about KSU CARE Services, visit care.kennesaw.edu.