Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Services offers four programs to support
KSU students and the community:
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) Georgia Grant, Priority Model
KSU AmeriCorps VISTA Network
Emergency Assistance Program
These programs serve homeless, foster care, and/or food insecure students and impoverished persons and communities. They also offer financial assistance, access to food, temporary housing, and/or supportive services to bolster the realization of a healthy, stable, and dignified life academically and professionally. Furthermore, they strive to serve as a model of professional excellence and effectiveness by upholding core values of social justice, equity, economic sustainability, and mutual partnership. Marcy Stidum, LCSW, MPA serves as the Founding Director of Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) CARE Services.
KSU’s first homeless student was identified in the 1980’s. In 2006 there was an incident where a student had fainted in a classroom. After speaking with her it was discovered that she had not eaten for several days. In response the KSU Student Health Services and the Staff Senate began a campus pantry entitled Feed the Future.
On October 13, 2008, KSU provided an opportunity for students to learn more about homelessness via the first annual Homelessness Awareness Week (HAW) event. The activities typically include a one-day conference and an on-campus Sleep-Out, increasing knowledge and understanding of living without reliable shelter and food, and sometimes living without hope. HAW is the result of the passion and dedication of Professor Emeritus Dr. Lana Wachniak in collaboration with community organizations and campus departments. HAW has been recognized nationally and locally. In July 2012, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, (R-GA) read a proclamation into the Congressional Record praising the efforts to raise awareness about the problem. In September 2012, the program received proclamations from the state of Georgia, Cobb County, and the city of Kennesaw.
During the 2011-2012 Academic Year 25 homeless students were identified and provided with supportive services. Factors contributing to students becoming homeless ranged from eviction due to lack of financial resources, parental death, domestic violence, support system rejecting their sexual identity/orientation, displacement of veterans, and so forth. After students continued to be identified and the number of referrals began to increase, KSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) established the Campus Awareness, Resource & Empowerment (CARE) Services in May 2013. As a result of a generous donation, in the summer of 2014 CARE Services was able to establish a foundation account for donors to contribute and support the students it served. Lastly, by July 2018, CARE Services was funded with an operational and personnel budget establishing it as a stand alone KSU Student Affairs department.
In September 2014, both Feed the Future and HAW were consolidated under the direction
of CARE Services. The fusion of these services helped CARE Services become a single
point of access to services and resources both on and off campus for KSU students
with issues surrounding homelessness, food insecurity, and foster care.
After the consolidation of KSU and Southern Polytechnic State University, CARE Services
opened the Marietta Campus' first pantry in Spring 2016. In August 2018 the Kennesaw
Campus pantry was expanded to offer a walk-in, self-serve access, shopping style pantry.
Stocked entirely from community contributions, the pantry was made possible by a $12,500
gift from Kroger and a $5,000 donation from Publix Food. By September 2018, University
Dining provided prepared meals to stock the freezers for both pantries. April 2019,
the three year old Marietta Campus Pantry was expanded into a second walk-in pantry.
GEAR UP Georgia, Priority Model
Since 2016 the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG) has been designated by the Governor’s Office to lead GEAR UP Georgia. The goal of the GEAR UP Georgia Project is to increase the number of Georgia high-need students who obtain a secondary school diploma and are prepared for and succeed in postsecondary education. The project has a statewide scope, proposing to serve over 12,000 high need students in over 40 schools in disadvantaged pockets of the state. In order to increase postsecondary access and success for these students, two different approaches have been adopted as models for delivering services and activities. Kennesaw State University (KSU) CARE Services was charged with overseeing one of those models, the Priority Model. The Priority Model aims to serve 1,000 high school youth who have experienced homelessness or the foster care system (Priority Students). Priority Students in grades 10th, 11th and 12th are identified and recruited across six counties in Georgia. Currently targeted counties are: Bibb, Clayton, Cobb, Floyd, Fulton and Polk. The future plan to scale up will include four additional counties.
KSU AmeriCorps VISTA Network
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members bring passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: help eradicate poverty. Through a federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) grant the KSU AmeriCorps VISTA Network was established in the Fall of 2018. The KSU VISTA Network allows the expansion of opportunities and resources available to low income students as well as local nonprofits with low operating budgets. KSU’s VISTA network ultimately reduces barriers to resources which in turn decrease individuals experiencing poverty due to inability to access support.
Established in August 2019, this program is available to any Kennesaw State undergraduate or graduate student who is struggling in overcoming unforeseen hardships hindering their successful academic progress. This service is provided in collaboration with the offices of the Dean of Students, Financial Aid, Scholarships, and CARE Services.
Community Engagement and Awards
As CARE Services Director, Marcy has been involved in several national organizations committed to helping homeless youth. She served as chair of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) Higher Education Committee, and served as the co-chair of the Community on Homeless & Foster Care for NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. She is currently a member of the Embark Georgia statewide conference steering committee where she serves as the conference curriculum co-chair, and 2020-2021 Chairperson of the Marietta/Cobb Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care (HUD CoC). Also as Marcy was awarded the Georgia College Counseling Association’s 2011-2012 Clinical Program of the Year Award during her time as the KSU CPS Associate Director and Case Management Coordinator. Lastly, served as the lead content contributor for NAEHCY's Single Point of Contact (SPOC) Model Revamp
CARE Services has received numerous state and regional awards for KSU’s CARE Services, including the Atlanta Magazine’s 2014 Innovation Index Award and the KSU Department of Residence Life’s 2014-2015 SOAR Award. Most recently, CARE Services was the recipient of the 2017 Cobb Community Collaborative Policy Council on Homelessness William E. (Bill) Hanson Collaboration Award. Nationally, CARE has been recognized as a Best Practice Model by National Center for Homeless Education, SchoolHouse Connection
, and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY). Also the CARE Director and a student served by CARE were asked to speak at a Congressional Briefing on College Student Hunger in America on December 6, 2017 in partnership with MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger Team.