Who would like an indoor relaxation lounge on Brookdale’s campus? How about an in-house pantry for any hungry student in need of a free snack? How does free childcare sound? Well, Brookdale ESL Administrator, Synde Kaufman is working on making all those things possible for BCC students.
Kaufman is well-known for her accomplishment in creating Brookdale’s Helping Hands; a program that provides free snacks all over campus as a way to alleviate the nationwide problem of hunger in college campuses. She understands the many barriers that students might face throughout their daily lives. To make their lives as well as their experience at Brookdale a little easier she is doing all that she can. That includes her five-year plan for Brookdale.
The question Kaufman had to ask herself was, what exactly were the barriers to success in the classroom? What was needed to get their students in those seats, in those classrooms and focused enough to learn? Even though the school has very qualified teachers, who’s going to listen to them when they have other distracting things on their minds?
That is why Kaufman decided to create a basic needs survey that has been active on Canvas for the last few weeks for any student to take. With the results from her survey, Kaufman has enough information to begin her process. Just as she thought, she found that students do worry about necessities, such as available transportation to and from campus, food and drink, child care, mental health and supply costs. Good thing Kauffman doesn’t plan on stopping with just food on campus.
Phase One of Kaufman’s five-year plan is to create what she calls, a Helping Hands Lounge. For college students, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and lost while trying to graduate. The lounge will offer students a place to take a second to breathe, because their mental health as well as their physical is just as important.
“Just a place to kind of decompress if you feel anxious or if you might not be in a good mood. We see things here, depression, anxiety or just having a hard time…living and figuring it all out. And it becomes a barrier, as well, for success in the classroom,” Kaufman said.
In her vision, the lounge will provide massage chairs, music, adult coloring books, some running water, food and, of course, counselors who will always be there if you wish to talk about anything. Kaufman said that she has found available space on campus and plans on moving forward very soon.
Phase Two is a walk-in food pantry that will provide food that you can take home with you such as rice, pasta, boxes of cereal, as well as, the basic shelf stable food like cup of noodles.
The goal of Phase Two is to offer hungry students in need a meal. One that goes beyond just the Helping Hands Bucket. Kaufman is already getting food donations and volunteers from the Brookdale Alumni Association and the Lincroft Bible Church! So, the pantry will be more than full.
Recognizing Kaufman’s contribution to the campus community, Vice President of Learning Matthew Reed has chosen to help further her efforts in meeting the basic needs that students face on campus, such as, available child care. Kaufman also plans to work further on having the school provide available and affordable child care for student-parents.
“We had Brookdale-funded child care her at the college. Now there is an outside company that runs the child care. But it is expensive, and you have to sign up per semester. So, it’s not very conducive for maybe say a working mom who is going to school part time,” Kaufman said.
These are only a few of her ideas. Furthermore, Kaufman also wishes to bring more awareness to the students about the services that are already available that they might not know about. Available services, such as, free legal aid for all students, psychological counseling, housing for students without a home, nursing rooms and many more. Students should not have to feel as if they are alone, because they are not.
“We know that the anxiety and depression that students face is real,” Kaufman said.
The goal of Brookdale’s Student Basic Needs Committee is to identify the barriers that are hindering students from being successful in the classrooms. Whether it’s something technical, such as, arriving to school on time, or something more personal like the wellness of their mental and emotional health. Brookdale wishes for its students to have a smooth and positive experience, and they will help in any way they can to make that happen.