By: Ena Yasuhara Li
Students and community members in San Mateo County will soon have access to an incredible new resource: SparkPoint at College of San Mateo (CSM). When this center opens on November 14th, San Mateo County will become the first and only county to have a SparkPoint Center on every community college campus.
SparkPoint Centers provide low-income Bay Area residents with a variety of free financial services in one centralized location. United Way Bay Area created SparkPoint Centers in 2009 to work with families for the long term, looking at all aspects of their financial health, with the goal of achieving financial prosperity. Individuals can go to SparkPoint to access any number of services – from enrolling in benefits, getting free nutritious grocery items, or receiving credit counseling. “SparkPoint is unique because all of the services come together. It’s all provided here,” says Sheila*, a SparkPoint client.
The SparkPoint Centers at Cañada College and Skyline College already serve hundreds of students in San Mateo County. The official launch of SparkPoint at CSM on November 14 means that every student in the San Mateo Community College District will have access to these services. Being a district that serves 40,000 students annually , this is a significant milestone for the district and the county. SparkPoint at Skyline College is nationally recognized for its Fall to Spring persistence rates of as high as 97%, compared to the college-wide average of 64%. We look forward to the continued impact that SparkPoint at CSM will have on the broader community members in San Mateo County.
The CSM campus already houses the largest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in the county, filing 663 returns and bringing back $652,865 in tax refunds to the community in the 2018 tax season. The campus also houses an active food pantry, run by Second Harvest Food Bank, that serves hundreds of families every year. The SparkPoint center will be located in the Wellness Center that also houses health services, making it even easier for students to access multiple services in one visit.
With CSM already having a history of being a resource to the community, SparkPoint will serve as an additional resource for students as well and the entire community. Around 60% of clients who access the VITA site at CSM are community members who aren’t students, and on average, 64% of visitors to the food pantry are also not students. We anticipate that SparkPoint will be a vital resource for the entire county.
SparkPoint changes the lives of thousands of individuals every year. Join us on November 14, 2018 to witness the grand opening of this new resource center. RSVP here: bit.ly/csmsparkpoint
*Client names have been changed to respect privacy.