By: Mary Sam, Dean of Students, Wellness & Equity and Mark Johnson, Interim VP of Academic and Student Affairs
Central Lakes College is more than a place to come, get an education and leave. It’s home. A family. It’s about connection. When students are here, we want them to be able to concentrate on their studies and not to have to worry about things like where their next meal is coming from. That’s why we’ve placed an emphasis on supplying basic needs to our students who need it. Students across both our Staples and Brainerd campuses struggle at times with having their basic needs met. When that happens, students tell us it’s difficult to focus, learn and to feel like they belong.
Through listening sessions, surveys and conversations with our students, it became clear that some of the barriers that impact student learning and student success include food insecurity, increasing mental health needs, lack of childcare, housing and transportation, and access to health services. Students also said they would like more supports around energy assistance, health insurance, financial literacy and support for our growing LGBTQ+ community.
Our Student Life Department has provided leadership to create a student center, called The Hub, to serve as the go-to spot for resources like the food pantry, a mental health center with a social worker, clinical therapist and trained student mental health guides, and community resources. These resources include a partnership with Bridges of Hope, which offers community resource connections, Lutheran Social Services, offering resources for energy assistance, Affinity Plus, which provides financial literacy support and education, the WeARE Clinic, which offers sexual health services, STI testing, assists with vaccinations, provides a variety of educational sessions and will soon to offer additional health services.
Building connection within the college community increases student success, but also provides students with leadership, service, relationship, team building and life skills. In addition to academic coursework, our students engage with faculty, staff and community in the following areas:
- We have seven sports teams, which include football, volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball and trap shooting.
- Performing Arts and Verse Like Water programs provide opportunities for broad engagement.
- Student Life supports our Outdoor Recreation Center, events and activities for students. We have close to 30 diverse Student Clubs. If students don’t see one they like, they can create their own with the support of a staff or faculty member.
- We have a strong student government organization. Student voices are essential.
- Cultural Thursday programs continue to educate, inspire and challenge us.
- Our new multicultural center, The Nest, encourages student engagement, hosts trainings and speakers, and will be offering cultural barbering every week.
- Our new Esports Lounge provides a gaming space where students can play casually or competitively. It is one of the fastest growing college sports.
Central Lakes College has intentionally created a wide range of activities so that students from any background can find a spot for themselves on our campuses – somewhere to belong. We encourage you to stop by our campuses and check it out!