Student Ambassador Program: Today’s Students, Tomorrow’s Leaders

2023 Real College California Basic Needs Summit

Last month, over 350 people, including administrators, faculty, staff, and students attended the 2023 Real College California Basic Needs Summit. The summit, hosted by the Real College California Coalition and the Community College League of California and sponsored in part by FoundationCCC, was held at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, California, and brought together professionals to connect, collaborate, and discuss practices that address housing and food insecurity.

Two out of three students experience at least one basic need insecurity, whether it’s the ability to obtain adequate food, pay rent and utilities, or have a stable place to live, according to data obtained through the RealCollege California 2023 survey of California Community Colleges.

To help combat some of these obstacles, FoundationCCC’s Equity Department, including team members Marisela Hernandez, Yuriko Curiel, and Jordaun Bennett, joined the summit to inform attendees about our basic needs support work, where we partner with programs such as CalFresh, California Low-Cost Auto Insurance, Crisis Text Line, and more to connect students with critical resources. They shared information on digital toolkits, which colleges and students can use to print and distribute materials on campus and in their communities, and post on social media.

Additionally, the session focused on the benefits and successes of peer-to-peer outreach realized through FoundationCCC’s Student Ambassador Program. The program trains students to act as on-campus advocates and leaders, who educate their community about resources available.

“There are different communities and many ways that our ambassadors can reach people within them and, because they’re students, it forms a more natural connection,” says Yuriko. “Employing peer-to-peer outreach helps to dissolve barriers that can often be intimidating or stigmatized.” 

FoundationCCC sponsored three Student Ambassadors to attend the summit and share their experience with the program: Mark Ilano of Evergreen Valley College, and Muhammad Anas and Aveen Ali from American River College. The event provided a place for students and administrators to form bonds and network. “They were able to ask questions, even about their careers, leading to mentorship opportunities,” said Yuriko.

“It was so exciting – I met new people and learned new perspectives from other colleges”, said Aveen. For Muhammad, who identifies as more introverted, speaking at the session and participating in the summit helped him to step out of his comfort zone, “I had never done anything like this before and was nervous, but I shared my personal experiences while working with students at the pantry and people seemed to appreciate my insights.”

The summit provided a unique forum to hear what other ambassadors are doing at their campuses, and helped connect faculty, administrators, and partners to the student voice and perspective. 

“We had the opportunity to learn about practices that other Student Ambassadors are doing on college campuses, which helped to validate some of the instinctive decisions that I have been making when helping other students,” said Aveen. “It was reassuring that we were on the same track.” 

With over a million student connections made since the Student Ambassador Program was launched in 2016, the program continues to grow and seek out new ways to support basic needs while cultivating a future generation of community leaders. Says Yuriko, “this program fosters our student leaders on campus… they learn new skills, create community, and build up their professional network.”