As the first in her family who will graduate from college, Gaby Madrid, GWSPH ‘17, is forging a new path. But thanks to GW’s First Generation Student Support program, she isn’t walking this road alone.
The program, offered by the Center for Student Engagement (CSE), helps the 12 to 15 percent of students in each entering class who are the first in their family to attend college to successfully transition to the university and prepare for post-collegiate life. Thanks to a generous gift from parent donors Terry and Steve Godfrey, P ’19, the CSE offerings to first-generation students include an annual lunch for the Founding Scholars transition program for entering first-generation students; monthly dinners; funding for business attire; and the loan of laptops, pots and pans, and other kitchen utensils.
“We feel a strong responsibility to the generation behind us, whether our kids or not, to prepare them to be happy, productive adults,” says Terry. “We are honored to fund these programs. In our minds, programs like Founding Scholars help first-generation students build a network on campus early and remind them that they are not alone in their experience.”
Gaby agrees. As the founder and president of First Generation to College—a GW student organization that advocates for and builds a community for these students—she is grateful to have a community of peers. “Creating the space for students to share their experiences has been very helpful,” she says. “It has been really rewarding that there are so many people willing to help this organization and that the university is addressing our needs more.”
The Godfreys’ gift also supported the creation of The Store, a student-run food pantry serving GW students.
“I serve on the school board of a public K-12 school district in an affluent district,” says Terry. “We know that in our 12,000-plus student population, we have students who have real needs that can be overlooked because people just assume all our students are part of affluent families. We knew that if there are students with food insecurity here, that there must be some at GW as well.”
In fact, 24 percent of GW students will face food insecurity at some point in their undergraduate careers, according to the Division of Student Affairs. When The Store launched last fall, it became one of the more than 400 food pantries on college and university campuses throughout the country.
Discretion and privacy were key factors in the creation of the food pantry. Located in an externally unmarked corner of District House, a new dorm, The Store offers easy access to students who only need to fill out a form with their email address and GWorld number. No names or financial disclosures are required.
Open and unattended from 6 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., with a brief afternoon closure for volunteer upkeep, The Store allows students to choose food in private. The Store is managed jointly by CSE and Class Council, a GW student organization. CSE staff oversee the logistics and financial aspects of The Store, while Class Council recruits, trains, and manages volunteers. In addition to these partners, other key collaborators include the Capital Area Food Bank, Whole Foods Market, Hungry Harvest, and Bread for Life.
First-year student Saru Duckworth, ESIA ‘20, one of the volunteer managers at The Store, is thrilled to be part of this effort. “In our user feedback, we received thanks from a girl who previously had to choose between buying textbooks and feeding herself,” she says. “GW core values don’t align with that; we all believe that no one should have to choose between education and feeding themselves. The Store is a great resource that allows students to continue their education without having to withdraw from school or struggle because of food insecurity.”
Based on student feedback from The Store’s shoppers and general observations, organizers note that students facing food insecurity also struggle with being able to afford basic toiletries, academic materials, and kitchen supplies. The Store plans to add these items to its offerings.
“There are so many hurdles to getting an education; food insecurity is one that we, as a caring community, can help the students overcome,” says Steve. “The Store is off to a strong start. We are so impressed by the commitment of GW and the passion of the staff to support their students in this way.”
In its first year, The Store projected a need of 12,000 pounds of food a year. But, by October 2016, it was clear the program would need at least three times that amount to meet the needs of a projected 500 students annually. The Store needs help from donors and supporters to provide food and supplies to students in need.