After a fall out with my mother a year ago, I have not relied on my parents’ financial support to make it through my college career. I sustained myself by working whenever I didn’t have class and doing homework when I didn’t have work. It was a system that worked well for me up until the beginning of this quarter when classes moved online.

I quickly learned that online classes and remote learning just weren’t for me. It didn’t help that I lived in Stonehaven, the on-campus apartments with probably the worst WiFi. During the first two weeks of classes, I found myself disconnecting from my Zoom lectures frequently. There was one time I disconnected from a Zoom lecture six times in 40 minutes. I did not learn anything that day. Although the internet had always been bad, I never contacted anyone for help; I did not want to bother anyone and asking for help seemed burdensome. I used to tolerate the internet by spending my days at the library, but COVID-19 had closed the entire campus. I knew I needed to act fast and reach out to someone or I could end up with terrible grades.

I built up the guts and emailed the Stonehaven IT department every day, with the exception of weekends. After a while of submitting complaints, the internet got better. I felt like a “Karen,” but I could finally attend a Zoom lecture without disconnecting. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I was ready to take more initiative toward being better at advocating for myself.

Courtesy of UCRcounts via Instagram

One of these steps was to visit the R’Pantry. I made an appointment on their website and went during my scheduled time. I received a grocery bag full of pastas, bread, canned goods and snacks. In addition to the groceries I was given a $25 Stater Bros. Market gift card. Once my R’Pantry groceries ran out, the gift card helped me sustain myself for longer. Seeking out these resources has been a step in increasing my overall well-being.

Just recently, I found out about Short Term Grocery Assistance, a program that offers undergraduate and graduate students up to $50 in grocery support every two weeks. It is a valuable resource that I have mentioned to all my friends and acquaintances who are food insecure. I have friends who are now recipients of that assistance and are finally eating well and focusing on school rather than worrying about where they will receive their next meal.

Although taking the first step towards gaining any help or assistance may seem difficult, it is necessary. For most of my life as a “Dreamer,” I did not believe that state benefits programs existed for me. I always pushed the thought of asking for help to the back of my mind in fear of anything and everything. I realized that asking for help was okay; that was solidified when Gov. Newsom announced the disaster relief payments for undocumented immigrants who were excluded from stimulus payments or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act money. Being a DACA recipient who did not receive any financial assistance from the CARES Act, the disaster relief payments I qualify for have given me the push I needed to stand up for myself and take initiative in becoming a stronger person.

Overall, resources exist for everyone. The struggle is in seeking them out and applying. Even now, during these hard times, the fact that grocery assistance programs exist amongst others are a demonstration that we are heard and seen.