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Addressing Barriers to Student Success

helping hands at hcc

This article was originally featured in The Business Monthly.

Tammy Anderson was looking for a fresh start. She had recently lost her mother and gone through a divorce, and was looking to make a positive change in her life. Having grown up in the Columbia area, she knew Howard Community College (HCC) had a top-notch nursing program, so she enrolled, even before she and her three children made the move from Delaware.

When classes began, Tammy hit the ground running.

“I was now the sole supporter of myself and my children. I didn’t take the time to grieve, I was just trying to do everything,” she said. “I thought I was Super Woman, but it didn’t work out that way.”

Emotions eventually caught up with Tammy, and when she began to slack in class, her professor grew concerned. The two had a long chat, and Tammy learned about the Career Links program and other resources HCC provides to help students facing challenges inside and outside the classroom.

Career Links provides programs and resources to support single parents and displaced homemakers, such as free counseling services, which help Tammy manage her grief. But that is not all. Tammy also utilized the college’s Food Pantry to help provide for her and her family, as well as the Helping Hands Fund to assist with unforeseen expenses. She was even able to provide a happy holiday for her children with gifts collected through HCC’s toy drive. These resources, Tammy said, made it possible to continue her academic journey.

There are many HCC students, like Tammy, who are facing financial obstacles, such as illness, car or home repairs, or hunger, that threaten to stop their education. The HCC Educational Foundation helps break down these barriers by providing emergency funds for students in need. The Helping Hands Fund provides emergency funds for unexpected bills. The Food Pantry and Food Fund provide for basic needs of students facing hunger. HCC also offers programs and funding for books and supplies not covered by financial aid or other scholarships.

Trina Miller, a 45-year-old single mother who balances school, a full-time job working with teen parents, and a part-time work study position, first learned of these resources when Maureen Marshall, assistant director of Career Links, visited her workplace to speak with the teenaged mothers Trina assists.

“That was a big help,” Trina said. “I found out about free tutoring offered, the different scholarships Career Links offers, the book library that allows you to borrow books each semester.”

Trina has relied on the Helping Hands Fund, the Food Pantry, and a book scholarship offered by Financial Aid Services. When she lost her brother last year, Trina says, free personal counseling helped her keep going.

Marcella, a current nursing student at HCC, had just begun taking her prerequisite courses when she stopped by the college’s Wellness Center. It was there she met Eileen Diggs, a case manager for Career Links, and was invited to attend a support group meeting.

“I was hesitant at first, but I decided to go,” she said. “I really enjoyed it. It consisted of other women who needed the same support – single mothers, starting new careers, starting over. It was very encouraging.”

At HCC, Marcella has gained financial support, book resources, and even a stipend for transportation needs. Over the years, Career Links staff have kept her informed about scholarships and resources she can benefit from.

“It’s a personal contact,” she said. “They are so in tuned. They get to know you, what you need, and what you might be interested in.

They’re interested in me and my success.”

The contact doesn’t end when students leave HCC.

Tammy was in her second semester of the nursing program, when her middle daughter was diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease. Tammy was forced to take a medical withdrawal from HCC. She met with Career Links and Academic Advising, who discovered she had enough credits to graduate last May with a degree in Human Services.

She now works as an addictions counselor, and loves her job. Career Links advisors have stayed in touch with Tammy to assist in her next steps, whether it be returning to HCC to complete her nursing degree, or working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work at a four-year university.

Whichever Tammy decides, she knows she has full support from HCC, and is grateful for the push she received while attending the college.

“You don’t expect the curve balls, but when those things happen and they pull you off track, you have to figure out something else,” she said. “The services at HCC were amazing. And I graduated. That was an amazing thing for my kids to see.”

The HCC Educational Foundation (HCCEF) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation that provides funds for scholarships, grants and programs that benefit the college. Established in 1978, the HCCEF’s mission is to improve lives and create opportunities by funding pathways to success.

Ongoing funding is needed to support programs, like Career Links, Helping Hands, the Food Pantry, and more, that help students with the greatest needs. To learn more, and make a donation, visit

Additionally, you can read this article at The Business Monthly.

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