A New Start: Supporting Students through Single Stop 


Like many Coloradans, Chris Fisher set out west looking for a new start. He had begun recovering from a substance use disorder and heard Pikes Peak State College (PPSC) might be a good place to rebuild his career—and his life.

“I came into the enrollment center from the bus stop and found computers available. There were people at the counter available to answer my questions,” he recounted.

Before he knew it, Fisher had submitted his Free Application for Federal Student Aid and signed up for television and radio broadcasting classes.

“I needed a fresh scene, and that’s college,” said Fisher, a former land surveyor. “I want to be around people—talk to individuals who have something to say and need to be heard.”

As part of his onboarding process, Fisher was directed to Single Stop, an online platform that connects learners to community, state, and federal resources. In July 2021, the Foundation for Colorado Community College received an anonymous $263,000 gift that allowed CCCS to roll out the service systemwide and PPSC to hire a dedicated Single Stop coordinator, Kandy Ruiz.

So far, Single Stop has assisted nearly 600 Pikes Peak students—far exceeding the program’s goal of reaching 200 people per academic year, Ruiz said. Participants accessed nearly $1.8 million in basic needs support in its first year, averaging about $5,700 in assistance per student.

“We’re trying to address those needs that are not educational for students to remain in college and graduate,” she explained. “Those can seem minimal to others, but it’s a huge obstacle.”

A good example is transportation, she said. Many students don’t realize their student ID gets them free rides on the city bus system, which they can use to get to class, work, and even pick up their kids from school. Through her office, learners can also apply for Medicaid, emergency grants, and rental or mortgage assistance.

The goal is to take a holistic approach to student support, Ruiz said. During the initial intake meeting, she reviews students’ eligibility for available programs and walks them through the application process.

“Some students just need a certain certification for specific programs, and some are completely new and have never applied,” she said. “I can coach them for the interview process and teach them what questions they should be asking and what to expect.”

Ruiz said these meetings could take 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the student’s circumstances. Information remains confidential.

“We always remind them that we respect and honor their needs,” she said. “This is a safe place where they can come in to address their needs without any judgment.”

In conversations with Ruiz, Fisher applied for Health First Colorado healthcare benefits and learned how to navigate 2-1-1 Colorado, a state resource that connects people with services and resources. He also discovered PPSC’s food assistance program, which includes two campus food pantries, a “mini” pantry at the college’s downtown location, and a mobile market that brings food directly to students six times a year. Since last summer, the pantries have experienced more than 16,000 visits collectively.

“I go to the Community Table as part of my routine daily, and I’ve found plenty of sustenance there,” Fisher said. “There are fresh vegetables and fruit, and it’s a wonderful resource.”

As Fisher dives deeper into his studies, he says Single Stop has made college possible. And he encourages all students to reach out for support if needed.

“There’s no shame in the game,” he said. “These resources are available to you—you just have to get in and access the system.”

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