CalWorks Offers Aid to Students Who Fall Below Poverty Level

Amy Hirsch

In these current difficult economic times, the GCC CalWorks program is providing a critical service to those in need.

According to Aarin Edwards, director of the CalWorks office at GCC, “Our mission is to help a population of students who are struggling in their lives to come to school and be successful . and see school as an incredible opportunity, even though it is coming to them at a time when they are really struggling.”

The CalWorks program, funded by the state through county offices, provides assistance to individuals in need, most commonly single parents who have minor children, with income and property below a minimum level.

Those receiving benefits through CalWorks are generally required to participate in the Welfare to Work program, which is designed to help lead people into a self-supporting job. Participants are followed at the county welfare department by a representative of the GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence) program, and may be directed either toward employment opportunities or further training.

The Welfare to Work program can provide cash assistance, child care, transportation and educational fee reimbursement. Those receiving aid are required to spend at least 32 hours per week in approved Welfare to Work activities. Work-related, vocational or educational programs can qualify.

GCC provides services for vocational education and training to qualifying individuals through the campus CalWorks office, which is part of the Continuing and Community Education Department.

Despite the budget cuts, “We still provide the same services,” Edwards said. “We care about our students very much.”

Staff in the college CalWorks office work as case managers and provide a wide range of services to assist students in the program to achieve their goals. Counseling is given for educational, financial, vocational or any other area that may be helpful.

Assistance is also provided students to deal with the state workers who oversee their benefits.

“The CalWorks program here at Glendale College is the largest of any community college in the state,” Edwards said. “We have over 1,500 of the 37,000 CalWorks students being served by community colleges.”

“Because of the economic crisis we are going through, there are more and more people who can’t find jobs . the numbers applying for welfare are increasing also,” said Edwards.

At GCC, CalWorks students have increased from 1,132 to 1,553 from 2008 to 2009. Of these, 69 percent are women. Of the total, 89 percent are white, 6.9 percent Hispanic, 2.4 percent Asian and 1 percent are African-American.

“A lot of our students are refugees from other countries, so say they come from another country – you can’t find a job, you would go to your GAIN worker who would say ‘what you need to become self-sufficient in this country is some education,'” Edwards said.

“They could go from having a difficult time finding employment to becoming productive successful people, and at the same time they are modeling for their children what it looks like to study and go to college,” said Edwards.

“At this time when the economy is so bad and so many people are struggling financially, we think that the mission of our program helping very low-income students is more important than ever,” Edwards concluded.

The GCC CalWorks office is located in SF114, (818) 240-1000, ext. 5508. An office is also located on the Garfield Campus, ext. 5681.
Anyone needing assistance should first apply through the county DPSS office located at 4680 San Fernando Road Glendale, 91204, or call (818) 546-6100.