Bearing bags of clothes to donate, California Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Daisy Gonzales and members of her executive leadership team spent a day of service in Southwestern College’s Jag Kitchen and SWC Cares Closet.
Gonzales and her team spent the morning sorting clothes and packaging snacks and holiday food bags for Southwestern College students. The Day of Service is an annual tradition for the chancellor and her team.
The volunteer opportunity also gave Gonzales the chance to speak with students and hear the challenges they face during finals week and throughout the school year.
Among the students Gonzales met were husband and wife Thomas and Celeste L. Hartigan. Both in their mid-50s, each had been laid off from their jobs earlier this year. They decided going back to college was their best opportunity to get back on their feet.
“We’re your “non-traditional” students,” said Thomas Hartigan, who is studying business administration. “We were the ones who were always volunteering and never thought we would have to be on the receiving end.”
Celeste Hartigan said returning to college has been challenging because they didn’t know how much they didn’t know about support services.
“But we knew where to go to ask for help,” she said.
Chancellor Gonzales gave the couple a pep talk.
“Thank you for proving anything is possible,” Gonzales said. “You already have my wheels turning from what you said and what we can do to better assist students.”
The Jag Kitchen Food Pantry began in 2016 to offer Southwestern College students free food and opportunities to sign up for Cal-Fresh. The Cares Closet, which takes in donated clothing for students to select, began three years later. The two services merged this semester.