Welfare To Work Program

Students in the CalWORKS program at Santa Monica College are highly motivated students who participate in all aspects of college life.

"I am the type of person who multitasks," said Gail Hunt, mother of six and a graphic design returning student. "For me I believe it's easier as far as academics in that I am able to do things in a reasonable amount of time. I am able to work, manage my home and have 'me' time."

CalWORKS is the name of the Welfare-to-Work Program in California. In 1996 the welfare program was reformed to change it from a lifetime grant, into a limited grant for five years. Each state was given the task of managing its own welfare-to-work program and to name it accordingly. California named it CalWORKS, meaning California Work Opportunities and Responsibilities to Kids.

"Since my employment with the CalWORKS program in January 1999, I have seen students come in with basic skills, and graduate with A.A. degrees and take meaningful jobs in the workforce," said Ana Greenburg, CalWORKS employment specialist. "Others have transferred to four-year schools to earn a Bachelor's degree and/or a Master's degree."

The Department of Social Services in the individual's county of residence manages eligibility and case management for each recipient.

The Chancellor's Office of the California Community Colleges in Sacramento secured a CalWORKS grant to provide services to community college students who are welfare recipients. SMC applied for and received this grant in 1998 and renews it every school year.

SMC provides support services to CalWORKS' students in the areas of academic counseling, personal crisis counseling, advocacy, employment preparation, work-study, internships, child care assistance, career counseling, specialized careers in child care program, tutoring and other services.

"The program is wonderful," said Erycka Thompson, who is a cosmetology major. "It's excellent for everyone that wants to work and attend school."

SMC CalWORKS students participate in the Associated Student Body, have a club called Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education, work on campus, work off-campus and transfer to prestigious schools.

"I want to be a counselor to help people, for individuals in crisis," said Belinda Phillips, president of C.A.R.E. club and whose 2005-2006 term as student trustee begins today. "I've gone through a lot and I want to give back." She is a mother of six and said that the C.A.R.E. program and the C.A.R.E. Club have really helped her. Phillips said she would like to see more people join the C.A.R.E. Club because "in the club we talk about issues that we have problems with, we set up parents' night out and a daycare system. It's like a family."

The C.A.R.E. program consists of students from different backgrounds. "There is no 'traditional student' anymore, people have so many issues in their lives, jobs and school," said C.A.R.E. Counselor Eric Barnard. "It's amazing and it makes me feel good to be a part of this. There are families and I want to keep reaching out to these mothers and fathers and their kids."

"C.A.R.E. is a group of students with a child. It's like a support system for the students, they are there for one another," said Phillips. "The C.A.R.E. program and EOPS are my flotation devices because I felt like I was drowning and these programs kept me floating."

CalWORKS students are excellent role models for their children. "Finding time to go to school and work I have time to go home and spend time with him," said Thompson referring to her 3-year-old son.

"I know their children by name and see them often when their mothers and dads bring them for a visit while taking care of their student business," said Greenburg. "It is very social! Working with the CalWORKS students is extremely rewarding."

"I just started this program as a struggling student and then Anna came and answered all my questions," said Thompson, who plans on opening her own salon one day.

According to Greenburg, it has been demonstrated that students that work on campus do better in school because they have their school and their job at the same site so they receive a lot of support from their supervisors.

Greenburg does the employment aspect of the program and gives students personalized attention with work-study, assistance in obtaining internships, developing learning objectives, job search leads for off-campus employment, resume and cover letter preparation, assistance completing employment applications, practice interviewing, referrals to on campus or/off-campus resources, information on earned income tax credit and more.

To work on campus, CalWORKS students need a minimum of six units of enrollment during semesters and a minimum of three during summer and winter.

Important notice for students in the CalWORKS program who would like to work on campus before June 30, 2005 is to contact Greenberg who has immediate jobs on campus for CalWORKS students even if students do not have Federal work-study funds.

"It's a wonderful program for returning students, there is ample opportunity here but it is your responsibility to find it," said Hunt. "The program in very embracing and the people are warm and caring. I was on the dirt and she (Greenburg) got me on the pavement, she's my AAA."

Greenburg emphasizes that students complete the FAFSA and obtain federal work-study for jobs in the new fiscal year beginning July 1, 2005.

The CalWORKS program is very inviting to all CalWORKS eligible students. "We believe there are still some students that don't know of us," said Greenburg. "We offer wonderful services. In addition, you will obtain a very useful SMC Resources Notebook."