Emily Henderson
Asst. News Editor

Announced on the Whittier College Instagram page on Dec. 17, 2021, a decision has been made that will allow Rio Hondo students without housing situations to be able to dorm on the Whittier College campus for little to no extra cost. This is to help “alleviate the housing issues faced by some socio-economically disadvantaged students.” The program will start at the beginning of spring semester 2022 and end June 30, 2026

The decision to go through with this was first announced on Dec. 8, 2021 at the Rio Hondo Board of Trustees meeting. The idea for this program was spearheaded by Whittier College Interim Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino, who was interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Brianna Wilson to discuss how the arrangements will work, and the intricacies involved with it. This “pilot program,” as Merino-Contino describes it, works by giving Rio Hondo students that qualify housing vouchers. Housing vouchers are available through grants and scholarships through Rio Hondo specific organizations, or through third-party providers such as Jovenes Inc. Center, the Salvation Army, or Volunteers of America. If a student runs out of housing vouchers, these organizations will be able to “. . . provide reduced rates to students [ . . . ] in order to provide housing stability.” Some requirements for Rio Hondo students to be eligible for this program include being enrolled at Rio Hondo College, having the COVID-19 vaccine (plus booster!), and following all policies and procedures from both colleges. Rio Hondo students in the program must follow the same COVID-19 requirements (such as testing and vaccination) that Whittier College students do. For example, if a student from Rio Hondo contracts COVID-19 while staying on the Whittier College campus, they will isolate themselves just like a student at Whittier College would. This will not affect housing at Whittier in any way. Deanna Merino-Contino says that she expects around twenty Rio Hondo students to dorm on the College’s campus.

There is no specific move-in date announced yet, but the application for Whittier College housing opened at the beginning of Rio Hondo’s spring semester on Jan. 29, 2022. Along the lines of moving, dorms will be served to Whittier students first, and no Rio Hondo students will move in until Whittier College’s spring semester begins. Rio Hondo students will intermingle with Whittier students in the dorm buildings, but not dorm rooms. Whittier College students will still be placed with only Whittier College students; and Rio Hondo students will only be placed with other students from Rio Hondo. For the time being, Rio Hondo students are only going to be able to move into rooms that are available. They will not be able to choose dorm rooms that are pet-friendly, gender-neutral, etc., but Merino-Contino stated that, as the program moves along, hopefully Rio Hondo students will be able to choose. Additionally, Rio Hondo students will not be able to pick up work-study jobs at the College, as Rio Hondo and Whittier have different funding programs, and must work at their own respective colleges while they are enrolled. If a Rio Hondo student does not have access to any transportation to and from the two campuses, they can “access free or low-cost public transit through the GO RIO program.” This program, in partnership with brands like Foothill Transit and Norwalk Transit, gives students accessibility to safe and reliable transportation between both campuses. Alongside, Marysol Mendoza will be handling the cohort of Rio Hondo students to show them around, introduce them to staff/faculty, and more — much like the freshman mentor program Whittier College has. 

Merino-Contino came up with the idea for this program after seeing that students at Long Beach City College were sleeping in their cars. The program put on by LBCC, called “Safe Parking Pilot Program,” allows students that are sleeping in their cars to be able to park their vehicles in safe and secure structures with access to necessities such as clean showers and electrical outlets. The program also helps these students find housing through Jovenes Inc. Center. In regards to this, Merino-Contino stated, “I like social justice; this is who I am.” 

With this program, Merino-Contino hopes this will give Rio Hondo students an opportunity and a desire to transfer to Whittier College. In the Whittier College Instagram post, she stated that, “My professional mission as a Latina educator is to pay it forward. . . . Over time, Whittier College has worked to strengthen and streamline our CARE resources to support students with basic needs and housing insecurity. So, it was a natural partnership with Río Hondo College to provide this opportunity.” The Vice President and Dean of Students has many plans in the future of this program, including creating a system in which Rio Hondo students can take Lib Ed-required classes at Whittier College, and WC students will be able to take other required courses at Rio Hondo — essentially, a dual enrollment program. She also hopes to have both Rio Hondo and Whittier College work together to create more staff/resources available for both sets of students in regards to the CalFresh program. CalFresh is a program for “people with low-income who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table.” They issue “monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy most foods at many markets and food stores [ . . . ] to improve the health and well-being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs.”

Superintendent and President of Rio Hondo College Teresa Dreyfuss stated that she “. . . would like to thank Whittier College for making this partnership possible; this will benefit many students and our community.” While many figures of faculty from both colleges seem to be hopeful about the subject, many students have yet to voice their opinions in regards to this new program. The Quaker Campus recently asked the Whittier College community on Instagram what they thought of Rio Hondo students staying on the Whittier campus. One person, who would like to remain anonymous, stated that, “I understand the intent and am sympathetic to the reasons along with the people who will benefit from this program, but, as someone having faced homelessness and having reached out to CARE team for housing help, I was told that, although I could get short-term housing (about a week or two, give or take), I had to pay full room [and board] if I wanted WC housing for the rest of the semester.” They also stated, “Don’t get me wrong, CARE has been very helpful and basically saved me when I needed the most help. The problem isn’t with CARE or anyone running CARE; the CARE leadership is truly outstanding. The problem is with Whittier College leadership putting other students ahead of their own.”

This is a wonderful opportunity for Rio Hondo students and both colleges. . . . This partnership will help many of our students have a stable place to live, study, and grow so they can succeed and complete their educational goals. Thank you to Whittier College for connecting with Río Hondo College and giving our students critical housing stability,” stated Board of Trustees President Vicky Santana. If you have any questions in regards to Rio Hondo students moving on campus, you can contact Interim Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino at dmerinoc@whittier.edu.

Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus

Author

  • Emily Henderson is the Assistant News Editor for the Quaker Campus. She is a second-year English Creative Writing major with a Film Studies minor. When trying to relax from work and school, she likes to read epic fantasy novels, watch cartoons, go to Disneyland, and drink unhealthy amounts of tea.

Emily Henderson is the Assistant News Editor for the Quaker Campus. She is a second-year English Creative Writing major with a Film Studies minor. When trying to relax from work and school, she likes to read epic fantasy novels, watch cartoons, go to Disneyland, and drink unhealthy amounts of tea.

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