Maria Fernandez, 45, a mother of three, struggles financially to support her family while pursuing a college degree.
“It becomes very frustrating when you can’t make ends meet for your kids,” Fernandez said.
Fortunate for her and other struggling students, Miami Dade College has partnered with an organization called iMentor to form a Single Stop mentoring program.
The program places first-year students, who are eligible to receive financial aid, in two-year mentoring relationships to provide additional support and encourage them to continue their studies.
Fernandez learned about the mentoring program when she came across a flyer on campus.
“I immediately became interested in finding out a way I would be able to become a part of the program,” Fernandez said. “Once I got started in my first one-on-one session with a mentor, they did a screening on me which would verify if I was eligible for any kind of financial assistance.”
Mentors and mentees get to know each other through weekly emails and monthly group events. Events include career planning sessions, financial counseling sessions, and various other college workshops.
“The Single Stop Mentoring program provides role models for students and allows them to receive benefits, screenings, and counseling all in efforts to make it easier to continue pursuing a college education,” said program coordinator Stevenson Charlot.
Because of the support Single Stop provided, Maria has been able to remain in school.
“I received Medicaid, which made doctor’s care possible for my son, $400 in food stamps, which was a relief because I had been spending $400 a month on medicine for my son, and health insurance for my children,” Fernandez said.
The Single Stop program has helped Julio Cohen, 22, spend more time in school and less time working a minimum-wage job.
“It has helped not only me but my family, and allowing us to not having to worry whether their will be food on the table,” Cohen said. “I don’t have to seek such a high paying job during school, which enables me to focus on my classes better.”
Cohen now receives legal services, food stamps, benefits from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is a federally funded program that provides support to needy low-income households for utility bill payments and a financial counselor.
“Had it not been for this program I would not have been able to continue attending college with the hopes of providing better futures for not only myself but my family,” Fernandez said.
To find out more about becoming a part of MDC’s Single Stop Mentoring program go to: https://mdcsinglestop.imentorinteractive.org/.