Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) are giving students an education who otherwise couldn’t afford one.
CSCU expanded its partnership with the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS), making Connecticut the first state in New England to offer free classes to Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) enrolled students at all 12 community colleges.
Students have around 60 programs at their disposal, from advanced manufacturing to emergency medical response.
“We have many people who are hungry, who are homeless and we have a responsibility to find ways to educate them so that they can provide for themselves and their families into the future,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said.
Often times people are working, but they don’t make enough money to support themselves or their families, said DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby.
More than 70 percent of students are employed within six months of completing the program. There are 1,200 students enrolled this academic year.
Capital Community College was the first CSCU institution to carry out SNAP Employment & Training more than 10 years ago. Tunxis Community College rounded the number of schools out to 12 this academic year.
Chrissy Chasse, of Bristol, is part of the program at Tunxis. She originally graduated from the community college in 2001 as a certified EMT, worked on an ambulance, had a car, bought a condo and birthed a son.
But a back injury sent the life she built for herself spiraling and lead to an opiate addiction.
“It all kind of falls like dominos,” Chasse described.
Now almost three years clean, she wanted to get back to helping people. Her future changed with a trip to the grocery store.
“I picked up a Tunxis catalog and said, ‘It doesn’t hurt to dream,’” Chasse said.
Inside she saw free classes were available to people who qualify for SNAP and is now studying to become a medical assistant.
According to Chasse, this class helped her go from being worried and frustrated about her future, to having hope for one. And she’s proud to be an example for her 10-year-old son.
“I do homework with my son sitting across the table from me, I realize that I have the only face I need looking up to me,” Chasse said.