Student Enrichment Services goes virtual to assist those most impacted by COVID-19

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Illustration by Hank Yang

Student Enrichment Services provides community, guidance and resources for first-generation and low-income students. SES has adapted to a virtual platform during the pandemic.

Hank Yang, Reporter

Northwestern Student Enrichment Services has adjusted its services to best serve students virtually.

The resource provides first-generation and low-income students with community and guidance, which have become all the more important during the pandemic.

Kourtney Cockrell, the founding director of SES, said she has noticed the toll the pandemic has taken on all students, FGLI or not.

“We saw more motivation challenges in the spring and then summer and fall,” Cockrell said. “Now we’re seeing those issues of motivation compounded with depression and anxiety. Seasonal depression is real.”

Developing genuine connections is especially important when dealing with sensitive matters such as mental health, financial hardship or identity crisis, all of which SES seeks to address, Cockrell said.

From bringing in guest speakers to speed friending, many of SES’s activities have moved online. Despite this change, Cockrell said SES tries to make its virtual environment as warm and inviting as possible.

“When we use Zoom, we do a lot of breakout rooms so that it’s not just one person talking into this abyss of 50 people,” Cockrell said. “All of my staff meets with students all the time during one-on-ones and in student meetings, so that’s a great way to build relationships.”

McCormick freshman Iva Hammitt said she didn’t initially understand her financial aid package. However, she said SES advisers explained what she needed to do in a step-by-step process.

When Hammitt expressed uncertainty about moving to campus, SES advisers also guided her through her decision to stay home this quarter.

“None of my family members have been to college, so it was a little overwhelming,” Hammitt said. “Being able to sit down with someone and talk about, like, ‘Hey, I have no idea what’s happening,’ was really helpful.”

During the beginning of winter quarter, SES provided FGLI students with free winter gear and a care package when they moved to campus.

McCormick freshman Peter Podobinski said he applied to NU because of services like SES, which could provide the necessary financial support to FGLI students.

“I got the (Winter Welcome) package, and they had bedding stuff, towels and sheets, which was nice because I’ve never lived outside of home,” Podobinski said. “It just was really nice to feel that I had someone supporting me in some way or showing care.”

In addition to providing its own support services, SES also connects students with resources offered by the University and other organizations. Through the SES website, students can access resources for emergency financial assistance, dorm lockout waivers, winter clothes, undocumented/DACA support, food accessibility and more.

For example, SES will provide students who demonstrate need with up to $300 to purchase professional attire for interviews or internships.

“Just knowing that that resource is there if I ever encounter something or if I need help is… really helpful,” Hammitt said.

Cockrell encourages anyone who wishes to speak to an SES adviser to fill out the interest form on their website, which also provides a list of resources for FGLI students. 

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Twitter: @hankyang22

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