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Chemeketa cashes in on $3 million in grant money

By Mary Noland, Sam Wright and Kaitlyn Wimmer

Chemeketa has received two grants, totaling $3,055,241, for the next fiscal year. The first grant is the Child Care Access Means Parents in School grant, CCAMPIS for short, totaling $645,788 over the next four years.The second grant is the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions grant, or DHSI grant, which totals $2,409,453 over the next five years. Both grants are federal, and provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The money will be used starting Jan. 2019 in various ways, including the hiring of IT help and the implementation of an early alert system.

Photo by Caleb Wolf

For the first year, Chemeketa will have $525,000 to spend from the DHSI grant. The remaining money will be used in chunks over the following four years.

“In order to apply for one of those grants…at least 25% of your population has to be Hispanic,” said President Julie Huckestein. “We’ll get that money and then what we can do is we can provide these new supports for all students…when we get all this set up. Because your first year is your building year. And hopefully what will happen is we’ll start attracting students as they come through the door and make sure we are providing the services they need along the way to help make sure they are successful. So its focus is on Hispanic and low-income students. Many of the students who come to community colleges are low income.”

Chemeketa surpassed the minimum requirement with a 27% of Hispanic/Latino student demographic.

Chemeketa almost didn’t receive the DHSI grant, however. According to a letter sent to United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos from Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley about Chemeketa’s application, there were “inconsistencies between the reader’s comments and scoring.” The letter states that Chemeketa reached out to the Department of Education about the inconsistencies, but didn’t receive a reply. It wasn’t until after Merkley and Wyden wrote to DeVos that Chemeketa’s eligibility score was apparently reassessed, inconsistencies were presumably corrected and the grant was awarded.

Neither of the Senators nor the Secretary could be reached for comment at the time of printing.

“That money will go to hiring a new technology systems person that will work with our IT department to look at how we can better help students navigate our processes,” said Executive Dean of Students Manuel Guerra. “They’ll be taking a look at our application, they’ll be taking a look at our admissions application…all our systems figuring out as students are navigating through these, where are they having difficulties and where are they stopping out.”

He went on to discuss problems some students have, such as difficulties using MyChemeketa, and ways the new hire can help fix those problems.

“[The new hire] would work with IT to kind of create new procedures, you know, for the students. That will be streamlined for them. It’s all about trying to get students through our processes. Then there will be four positions that are going to be hired, they’re going to be called ‘student navigators.’”

Student navigators will focus on recruitment, go to high schools to tell students about Chemeketa, help them with their applications, assist them in receiving financial aid, and guide them through the transition into higher education.

The grant money will also help Chemeketa improve its Early Alert system.

“The Early Alert system we’re trying to come up with…would be organic,” said Guerra. “[It would] be a way for faculty, at any point in their class, whether it’s the third week, fourth week, you name it and they’re going, ‘one of my students is struggling, they could really use some tutoring,’ they can do an alert and that alert would go to our tutoring center and they would reach out to that student…we’re trying to encourage students to use the resources available that will support them academically,”

The other grant Chemeketa received was the Childcare Grant. The money will be used to improve Chemeketa’s Support to Expectant and Parenting Students (STEPS) program. STEPS provides help with early childhood education for student’s children, as well as economic support and workforce development. It also houses services such as support groups for parents, and a resource center with free workshops.

“The Childcare Grant is going to help by providing additional slots in the evenings to students,” Guerra said. “We’re going to extend our hours at the Child Development Center and be able to help students who are having childcare issues or childcare needs,” Guerra said. Students will be able to apply for time slots, but drop ins will also be welcome. “It would be a win-win situation.”

In accordance with federal law, the grants must be spent in specific ways. The requirements are laid out in the grants themselves. For instance, the money cannot be used to alleviate the school’s budget deficit.

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