Ramapo’s We Care Program helps students in need of extra support

The We Care Program began at Ramapo back in 2017 for students in need of resources to support and help them in combating food insecurity and homelessness, but the program has expanded in the years since. The program has long offered a food pantry and a Student Relief Fund but has also added a clothing closet and the Laptop Upcycle program. The newest additions to the program have come in the form of the Fresh Food Initiative last year and the addition of nine satellite pantries around campus since the fall.

Inside the food pantry, the shelves are stocked with microwavable meals, nonperishable foods and soups for students without kitchens. Students are also allowed to take a free bag of produce every week. While the food pantry is open for specific hours, some students may not be able to make those hours.

“They can make an appointment to come use the service. We’re always open to do appointments,” Assistant Director of the We Care Program and Community Service Dylan Heffernan said in an interview with The Ramapo News.

The satellite pantries, while smaller, are available for more hours and offer similar nonperishable items in places such as the Women’s Center, the Multicultural Center and outside the Civic and Community Engagement Center, which includes frozen meals.

The Professional Clothing Closet provides students with appropriate attire to wear to interviews and work settings. Students are allowed to receive six items of clothing per academic year. 

“There are 10 students right now. It is underutilized,” Heffernan said. “Many students don’t realize you can keep the clothing or don’t realize it exists. There’s no rental system or way to give it back. You keep the clothing.”

The Laptop Upcycle program works to eliminate obstacles to students’ learning. Providing laptops helps bridge the gap of achievement for students through long-term solutions. 

Heffernan mentioned that when preparing laptops for new owners, they always wipe the laptops and make sure everything is working like new before handing over a laptop to a new student. 

Depending on what the situation calls for, they might update the RAM, hardware, memory or charger, clean the machine and remove stickers. If they don’t give the laptop to a new owner, they might reuse old parts from the machine in a different one. Nothing is wasted in the Laptop Upcycle.

The Student Relief Fund is a one-time grant of up to $300 to $500 for students in need. The hope is that students will be able to use this service in desperate times and that they will not be afraid to use it.

“[It] allows students who are in a temporary crisis to [get] help with an emergency. [For example,] a commuter’s tire goes flat, so we can provide funds to fix the car, whether to pay the mechanic or to reimburse them for the bill,” Heffernan said. “The main goal is to prevent the situation from getting worse.” 

Heffernan appreciates that the various programs support students differently. Each program can help students work towards their goals by providing solutions, which is something he’s proud to offer to students who might be struggling on campus.

“Reach out,” Heffernan said. “Everyone is going through something… Don’t minimize your experience and needs based on what someone else might need. Don’t get caught in the trap of minimizing your need because people have it worse.”




Featured photo by Dominique Walton