Care packages hope to break educational barriers

By Jessica Suico, News Editor

If you are a student or know a friend or classmate who is in need of basic hygiene products or even a financial or credit coach, the SparkPoint program has resources for your needs.

SparkPoint Coordinator Bill Bankhead said, “Look good, feel good, do well.”

For students to be able to put all their focus into their college studies, they have to feel good about themselves and have healthy self esteem, he said.

“How you look affects how you feel, and how you feel affects what you do,” he said.

Bankhead and SparkPoint want to help break some of the barriers inhibiting student success, specifically, the stigma of being embarrassed or ashamed about being in a financial struggle.

“The common need for students on campus are (basic) products like deodorant, shaving cream and feminine hygiene products,” Bankhead said.

Student Life Office help, donations and small fundraisers are what sustains SparkPoint and enables the program to offer the help and resources the students need, he said.

African-American studies major Elisha Elaine said, “I have benefited a lot from SparkPoint. Bill (Bankhead) has helped me gain knowledge about credit and I have actually raised my credit score because of the help of a credit coach Bill assigned me. SparkPoint has great resources.”

Elaine was struggling when she first started at Contra Costa College in the fall 2016. Counselor Sarah Boland referred Elaine to SparkPoint and they made a way for her, she said.

“I refer any friends, who are in need of things, to SparkPoint. The Comet Care Packages have helped a great aspect of my life,” Elaine said.

Bankhead said, “We have pre-made Comet Care Packages, but we encourage students to come and make their own by picking which products they actually need. One student could only need one thing while another student may need a whole bag of stuff. It all depends on the student’s needs.”

About two students per week come to the SparkPoint Office in need of help or supplies, Bankhead said. The indicator to start offering Comet Care Packages came back in 2016. Bankhead met with then dean of student services Vicki Ferguson and asked her what she observed to be the basic needs of students on campus.

Bankhead said he has 1,783 contacts for students on campus who have intersected with SparkPoint, by either attending workshops, taking advantage of resources or helping the program continue running efficiently for students.

“Seventy-two percent of the (SparkPoint) users are enrolled as clients and 30 percent of clients made financial improvements in their lives,” Bankhead said.

Sociology major Kimberly Wright said, “I have benefited from a few things from SparkPoint. I have raised my credit score and I’m learning how to manage my money better. Bill (Bankhead) also helped me with getting my books this semester and helped with applying for scholarships. SparkPoint has awesome resources that students probably don’t even know about.”

Wright described SparkPoint as a supportive, friendly and personable program.

“They always follow through with what they say they are going to do for you and there are genuine, real people who are a part of SparkPoint. Especially Bill (Bankhead), he is a very caring understanding person,” Wright said.”

Bankhead said students don’t have to have a lot of money to give back and help contribute to the Comet Care Packages. He spoke of a scenario when his wife and he got married and they went on their honeymoon.

He asked all the housekeeping staff if he could keep the shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion the hotels give out to guests.

“My wife was all, ‘oh boy you’re going to fill our luggage with nothing but soap,’” Bankhead said. He did that and brought back all the products and distributed them to students who were in need.

He also said, a year and a half ago, a student bought two bags full of feminine products.

“Every little bit helps. There is no need for students to not be focused on school because they are out of deodorant and are too embarrassed to raise their hands. Break the stigma and come get your Comet Care Package,” Bankhead said.