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Leveraging Peer Relationships: Our Student Navigator Network

As colleges and universities around the country began to close due to COVID-19, thousands of students suddenly found themselves in financial, academic, and personal crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges that low-income students face. With the economic impacts growing exponentially, we need to support students to ensure they are not going hungry, becoming homeless, or being forced to drop out of school.

Steeped in the belief that programs should be sustainable, innovative, student-centric, and destigmatizing, we saw an opportunity to step up and leverage our community with the Student Navigator Network.

In the Summer 2020, we partnered with Rise to collaboratively launch a one-on-one referral service that helps students apply for emergency financial assistance, find local support, navigate public benefits, and get timely information on policies, programs, and services that affect them. This innovative program employs and trains Student Navigators to help their peers access the resources available to them. Peers helping peers reduces the stigma often associated with seeking assistance and increases the likelihood that students in need will ask for help.

We are fortunate to work alongside so many dedicated student leaders fighting to end college hunger. In moments like these, it is our responsibility to take stock and determine how we can be responsive to our community. We already know that students are the best resources to their counterparts on campus, as 50% of the students that receive donated meals heard about the program from a friend. The Student Navigator Network has enabled us to capitalize on this organic relationship-building in a way that is meaningful to this point in time. Not only has this directly helped students facing hardships due to the pandemic, but it has also provided additional financial support for the Student Navigators we hire– many of whom lost jobs or other career opportunities over the last four months.

Throughout 2020, this program supported over 7,000 students to access over $900,000 in benefits nationwide.

Learn about a few of our Summer 2020 cohort Student Navigators below:

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