Montclair State University’s Red Hawk Fellows Program allows eligible students to receive emotional, financial and academic support.
Arian Craig, program coordinator for the Red Hawk Fellows Program, explained the logistics of the program.
“Our participants are made up of students who were either previously enrolled or currently involved with resource care which we refer to it in the state of New Jersey, foster care outside of the state of New Jersey, emancipated youth, youth who are under independent status, usually that’s the same thing,” Craig said. “These participants are under the age of 24 and are experiencing either or both housing insecurity and or food insecurity. So usually students are enrolled automatically based on what’s reported on their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).”
Alyssa Occhiuzzi, a junior film and television major, believes the program is a great part of the campus community.
“I think it’s a great, engaging program to have people come together as a community and support others,” Occhiuzzi said. “I’m all about helping people as well as like supporting people and trying to make sure everyone’s happy and at peace, so when it comes to helping others, it’s such a big factor, definitely coming from Montclair [State] itself that us in the community can support.”
Craig shared what eligible students can receive from the program.
“The premise of the program is to provide these students with additional support and services,” Craig said. “Since taking over the program, I have restructured it just to get some more flexibility in a way. Active status refers to the participants who want to engage with their peers and engage in programming that is offered.”
Craig also explained what is occurring within the program this semester, centering itself around professional development and career skills.
“This semester we’ve been working on pretty much professional development because we just had our career night which was now two weeks ago,” Craig said. “We had some professional guests come from off campus and we had some of our campus partners attend. We had a speed networking portion of the event and so the students got to practice their interview skills and interview professionals about their path to success and the professionals interviewed them as if you know they were applying for a position.”
Alyssa Ramos, a freshman undeclared major, finds the program great to have.
“I really think that it’s a good program to have,” Ramos said. “I feel like there’s a lot of people that I know personally that don’t have homes besides dorming, so I feel like for them I feel like it’s a good [program] to have, like a sense of security instead of them not knowing what to do over the summer, stuff like that. They have a safe place that they already know, like a safe haven.”
Mylen Viddla, a freshman undeclared major, agreed with Ramos’ points on the program.
“I really do agree because I know a lot of people who don’t have anywhere at all and are just like couch surfing and stuff like that.”
Craig shared the housing component of the program titled Succeeding Through Empowerment and Stewardship (STEPS), where students have the opportunity to stay on campus over the summer.
“One is the STEPS program, which is Succeeding Through Empowerment and Stewardship,” Craig said. “That [program] assists students with affording summer housing and then there are stipulations that we make them do, but it’s still helpful like they need to be registered for classes and or working.”
The Senior Housing Project provides year round housing and helps those who are planning to attend graduate school.
“The other project we have is the Senior Housing Project,” Craig said. “The Senior Housing Project assists students who are graduating with locating post-graduate housing. So if they’re intent on going to [graduate] school, just making sure those applications are in and they have the housing set forth.”
Craig shared that The Senior Housing Project donors are realtors and help the students with finding housing after college.
“We have our generous donors who are realtors [who] assist them on a one-on-one basis with finding actual post-graduate housing,” Craig said.
The support of each fellow is taken with care and dedication.
“We want to take the time to make sure their feelings supported and we recognize that as our program grows, our need will grow,” Craig said.
The program follows President Johnathan Koppell’s desires for Montclair State to be a university for the community.
“As our president stated, he wants us to be a school for the community and I think this program will be a vital part in achieving that.”