Elevating the Voices of Vulnerable Students

The last thing Nancy LePage ever expected was to experience food and housing insecurity.

When her mother moved out of state, and LePage stayed in California to start her undergraduate education at Pasadena City College, she soon found herself without a stable, dependable place to live.

Housing insecurity manifests in a wide range of circumstances, including homelessness. Those who are housing-insecure may be unable to pay rent. As a result, they are forced to move often or find themselves living in undesirable accommodations, overcrowded and dilapidated. Some become homeless as a result.

Her housing insecurity ended when she transferred into the UC system, where she found affordable housing through a combination of grants and scholarships. However, the memory of that experience—and her struggles with food insecurity, which continued—gave LePage a strong sense of mission throughout her undergraduate career. As a result, her focus on the challenges she and other students faced grew when she entered CGU’s School of Educational Studies doctoral program.

Her familiarity with couch surfing and dealing with predatory landlords inspired LePage to connect with the California Homeless Youth Project (CHYP). As a result, she began conducting research that would contribute to public dialogues and influence meaningful policies to support the academic success of all students.

LePage says one of the most important lessons her research and experiences have taught her is simple: Students must have the power to speak up and ask for help.

“I didn’t,” she said. “I hid my own situation from family members and tried to manage it myself.”

Speaking up and having advocates (like LePage) is undoubtedly important, and so is having better support systems on college campuses. Among LePage’s recommendations, she says colleges can better serve their struggling student populations by creating partnerships with local nonprofits that provide food, housing, and similar services.

She adds that colleges must also do a better job of promoting the resources they already have. Students often miss out simply because they aren’t aware of what’s available.

LePage earned her master’s degree at CGU in Educational Evaluation & Data Analysis. Currently she is working toward a PhD in Education with a concentration in Higher Education/Student Affairs. She credits CGU with helping her gain the tools to perform meaningful research to better understand the barriers and best practices leading to student success.

Student and teacher in classroom
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