CHICAGO – It is common to see a counseling center on the campus of a residential four year college, but these same services – social and emotional supports – are becoming increasingly important at community colleges where students commute to and from class. In fact, City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois’ largest community college system, opened Wellness Centers at all seven colleges in the fall as part of a comprehensive review of its student supports stemming from its ongoing Reinvention initiative. The City Colleges’ Wellness Centers offer students, faculty, and staff free counseling, mental health support, and much-needed links with community resources.“Being someone growing up who struggled with some of the same significant challenges – from homeless to family dependencies – that our students face today, I am acutely aware of the need to provide our students with holistic supports to ensure their success in the classroom and beyond,” said Chancellor Cheryl L. Hyman. “Wellness Center staff is ready to listen to our students and connect them with the help they need, whether the help is at the college or in the community. Our Wellness Center staff not only suggests the right resource, but also manages the request to confirm the student receives the help they need.”With the addition of wellness centers at Malcolm X College, Richard J. Daley College, Harry S. Truman College and Wilbur Wright College, all seven of the City Colleges now have wellness centers open five days a week, including evening hours. All services are provided confidentially, including crisis intervention, support groups, stress/time management coaching, guidance to manage a life transition, personal counseling and case management to access low-cost childcare, groceries, medical care, housing and other basic needs.“While we have students who come to us with severe challenges such as mental illness, homelessness or domestic violence, most students visit the Wellness Centers because they’ve suffered one stressor too many,” said Michael Russell, District Director of Wellness Centers. “We provide the support they need to get through the rough patch so that they can persist in the classroom and resume doing what they’ve been doing so well all along. And for those who need help juggling school, work, family and their other responsibilities, we offer presentations on time management and stress management, which have been well received by the student body.”During the Fall 2012 semester, the Wellness Centers collectively served 4,520 first-time clients. Wellness Center staff members also conducted presentations on time and stress management skills in the classroom and at other events at the colleges, letting nearly 14,000 students know about the services available at these important new facilities. That shows a huge growth from the previous year, when the three open Wellness Centers served about 1,500 students and the teams served about 3,000 students through outreach programs.“Our students want to succeed and when given the necessary support, they can,” explained Russell.“For example, a student came to us after losing his uncle, who was his mentor and the primary breadwinner for the student’s household. In addition to managing his grief, the student and his family needed emergency help to pay for utilities and rent. His counselor provided emotional support and helped him to find resources. Afterwards, the student thanked the Wellness Center staff, saying he would have dropped out of college without the help from his counselor.”
The Wellness Centers are the outgrowth of a comprehensive review of student supports at City Colleges through the Reinvention initiative. City Colleges has expanded its services by doubling the number of advisors, bringing the advisor-student ratio from 920:1 to 450:1, moved to a case management approach to advising, and are launching a comprehensive student early alert system, which enables City Colleges’ staff to proactively offer academic and other supports. The colleges also offer financial aid advisors, tutoring, childcare and support for disabled students and veterans.
To learn more about the Wellness Centers, visit this page