Helping students survive, so they can later thrive

November 14, 2022

Dearborn Support helps connect students with needed resources like tech devices, food assistance, bus routes and more.

Dearborn Support Coordinator Maddie Drury sorts food for the Student Food Pantry in the Dearborn Support office suite, which is on the second floor of the University Center.
Dearborn Support Coordinator Maddie Drury sorts food for the Student Food Pantry in the Dearborn Support office suite, which is on the second floor of the University Center. Photo by Sarah Tuxbury

Dearborn Support, a new unit on campus, works one-on-one with students to help connect them to the resources they need.

“There are many jobs on this campus focused on students thriving, and ours in Dearborn Support is focused on students surviving,” said Dearborn Support Coordinator Maddie Drury. “Dearborn Support advances student success by assisting students as they navigate life’s obstacles, connecting students with resources on and off campus, and helping ensure that student basic needs are met.”

Technology access needs are addressed through long-term check outs for laptops or hot spots. 

Students who experience an off-campus critical incident, like a severe illness, can contact Dearborn Support to ensure they feel supported; Dearborn Support can then let their faculty know there’s a concern and that the student is unable to participate as actively in class. There’s also a student food pantry so students don’t need to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Dearborn Support also works with off-campus partners. For example, Language barriers? Dearborn Support will work with community partners, like ACCESS, to find a translator. There’s a SMART Bus partnership to map the best routes for students who are having car trouble. And healthcare professionals will routinely come to campus to offer monkeypox vaccinations and STI testing.

And these are only some of the offerings in place.

Dearborn Support, which is a unit out of the Dean of Students office, officially launched this semester. To help students, it takes student self-referrals or leads from faculty and staff. Then Dearborn Support staff meet with a student — in person on the second floor of the University Center or remotely — to learn about the obstacles they are facing. If you or someone you know needs help, email [email protected].

“Everyone’s needs are different. That’s why it’s important to listen and tailor a plan based on what the student needs,” Drury said.

The idea for this offering came out of the campus wide 2019 strategic planning process, said Office of Student Life and Dearborn Support Director Tyler Guenette. Then the pandemic came and Student Affairs pivoted to creating a COVID support team. That team has now evolved into Dearborn Support.

“Dearborn Support continues to help with students who have COVID questions or illness, but we have broadened our efforts to expand assistance and address inequities with resources,” Drury said. “We have even bigger plans to better support students who care for children or other family members, those experiencing housing insecurity and individuals seeking basic financial assistance to keep the lights on.”

Guenette said the Dearborn Support team saw how the pandemic furthered disparities. So they listened to what the students' needs were and created community partnerships from scratch.

But Guenette knows this work isn’t done — his team will continue to feel out how to make a bigger impact across campus to best serve students.

“Our team is always on the lookout for new partnership opportunities. We would love to connect with campus faculty and staff who might serve as a member of a community service organization or on a local board so that we can explore mutually beneficial partnerships to enhance the services we can provide to our students,” Guenette said. “We all want to see our students succeed. As we create more connections together, our students will find even greater success.”

The data shows that the need is strong on campus, Drury said. For example, Dearborn Support currently has 60 laptops checked out — and a long wait list for more students needing equipment. And the food pantry quadrupled the number of students it served in 2022, over 2021. During the 2021 calendar year, they brought in just over 4,000 pounds of food from Gleaners and Eternal Light to keep the shelves full. It’s since doubled.

“We have brought in nearly 8,000 pounds of items with two months in the year left to go. That’s approximately equal to a flatbed truck or an African Elephant. The demand is here in the students we see every day. Myself, one student worker and 17 weekly student volunteers want to make all feel welcome and supported,” she said. “I want to say thank you to our great student volunteer team —  they are making a difference in so many lives.”

Drury said a diploma will make a long-term difference in someone’s life. But to get students to graduation, there is work that needs done now. She stressed that the campus community can help this effort and asks that everyone help spread the word about all that Dearborn Support has to offer.

“We are here to help students in their day-to-day lives,” she said.“Dearborn Support is creating sustainable partnerships and solutions for basic needs, and this work is possible because of the people on our campus and in our communities.”

Dearborn Support’s current partners include the Mardigian Library, MDHHS, Corktown Health, SMART Bus, ACCESS, Eternal Light Organization, and Gleaners Food Bank. Want to find out how you or your organization can help? Reach out to Drury at [email protected].

Article by Sarah Tuxbury.