Family Economic Security Program
Throughout higher education, particularly at community colleges nationwide, the greater challenge is not attracting students to start
pursuing their education; it is providing the supports necessary to ensure that they finish college and reach graduation day.
A new addition to the Gateway Community College portfolio of support services is a grant-funded program that provides students with wrap around services – a mixture of academic, career, financial and personal support. The goal is to support students every step of the way
to degree completion.
The Family Economic Security Program, or (FESP), features rigorous criteria and significant benefits for student participants. It launched
with two dozen students, initial funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation, and support from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and the Carolyn Foundation.
Wells Fargo became a founding sponsor spurred by two effective advocates: Helene Augustine, the Vice-Chair of the college’s
Foundation Board, and Kevin Burke, Chair of Gateway’s President’s Executive Council.
Upon reviewing the program’s superb track-record elsewhere in the state’s community college system, Augustine and Burke immediately understood how much of a difference it could make, and thus how essential it was for Gateway. As leaders with Wells Fargo in the
region – Burke is Market Executive for Connecticut and Augustine, a Senior Fiduciary Relationship Specialist – they instantly saw an
opportunity for collaboration.
The program is a two-way street; a partnership in which, as Augustine describes it, “Students have to commit as much as we do.”
Participating students must have completed at least nine credits and have at least two semesters remaining; have a 2.0 GPA or higher; and
be currently employed full or part-time. Benefits include one-on-one coaching (financial, academic and career), cultural enrichment activities, professional development workshops and assistance with networking skills, on-campus family events, and early course registration.
Augustine describes higher education as one of the areas that “touches my heart the most,” particularly equity issues for women and girls. The FESP initiative, she explains, is a “tremendous asset” for students who have the greatest need. “They’re trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, even though so much is stacked against them. FESP can help them achieve a better outcome.”
An advantage of the Wells Fargo decision-making process is that, although requests for program grants are filed nationally, decisions on funding allocation are made locally – ensuring that Wells Fargo’s local leaders, such as Burke and Augustine, can provide the human connection to the company’s commitment to community.
FESP addresses two of Wells Fargo’s five areas of community commitments: education and the achievement gap, and workforce development. “It is a program that achieves results,” Burke explains, because it provides students with “a full suite of wrap around services that gives them a better shot at reaching graduation.” He notes the precarious nature of balancing family and career responsibilities along with school attendance,
which so many Gateway students must do.
“I have seen first hand how life-changing this program has been. It has helped students stay in their homes, stay on track for
graduation, and strengthen their academic skills and has helped them identify their career paths. I am passionate about this program and will continue to work diligently to ensure the success of our amazing GCC students, who are so deserving of the opportunities FESP has provided them.”
FESP Director Licella Arboleda