Jackson College: Providing Holistic Support Through an Inclusive Resource Hub

Jamie Vandenburgh and Marilynn Fryer
Member Spotlight

Jackson College has been committed to providing excellent education and support to its students for over 95 years. In today's fast-paced world, college students' requirements and needs are evolving. To address these needs, Jackson College has initiated a pilot program called Harriet's Hub, which serves as a one-stop student resource center.

The name hearkens back to the college’s heritage, remembering a former faculty member, Harriet Myer, who helped college students by establishing a student assistance fund. With two rooms of dedicated space in the college’s library, the hub provides necessary resources, including a full food pantry, professional clothing, and personal care items, in a supportive environment. The mission of Harriet's Hub is to eliminate barriers to student success.

Student Resource Coordinator Ariel Maturine regularly sees students in need, from those needing a meal to get through the day to those whose families have more pressing concerns. She wants the hub to be a place students can go if they are in crisis mode, in a great mood, want a cool snack, or need something for an interview. “Whatever they need, no matter where they are at on their journey, I want this to be a place for them to stop by and say ‘hi,’” Maturine said.

Statistics show that one in nine people in Michigan face hunger, and one in eight are children (Feeding America, 2021). A national survey by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab (Goldrick-Rab, 2018) found that 42 percent of community college students were food insecure in the 30 days preceding the survey, with 56 percent indicated in a larger study the previous year.

Harriet’s Hub Food Pantry

Recognizing a Need

At Jackson College, we believe in a holistic approach to education that prioritizes development of the whole person, rather than just their academic achievements, especially given the unique challenges faced by some college students. For example, a student who is hungry or stressed about making ends meet will have greater difficulty concentrating in the classroom or on homework. Often, those stressors become acute enough to cause a student drop out of college, giving up on their dream. Focusing on the entire student can improve academic success and foster inclusion. “I think as we try to foster a culture of belonging and inclusion on campus, we have to look at the [whole] student,” said Jamie Vandenburgh, Assistant Dean of Instruction.

Struggling students are not new to campus employees. Jackson College had already established a professional clothing closet, Jackets for Jets, to provide appropriate workplace attire. A Hunger-Free Campus initiative offered students in need food coupons for a free meal in the college’s cafeteria, with 300 coupons used in the 2022-2023 academic year. Individual employees who worked closely with students would keep a small supply of food products in their office for students who had missed a meal or one who seemed to be struggling. Recognizing that it was important for the college to focus on student needs more intentionally, Vandenburgh spoke with President Daniel J. Phelan in August 2023, and the idea for a one-stop resource shop was borne.

From Idea to Reality

Ramping up Harriet’s Hub involved help beyond campus. Community partnerships with such organizations as South Michigan Food Bank and Michigan Works! were critical to starting the resource center. As a result of the college’s recent efforts, these partnerships continue to grow. After visiting Jackson College, Safara Parrott, Education Justice Organizer with the Student Advocacy Center of Michigan, said, "I am so glad there are folks creating such intentional community resources like the pantry and clothing closet; it was very inspiring to see.”

A campus committee crafted ways to spread the word to students. After the rooms were renovated for a resource center, a November soft opening introduced Harriet’s Hub to students and staff. A Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign brought in money to help with costs. Vandenburgh secured a partnership with a local bakery, which provided donations of bread through November and December 2023 for students to access on a first-come, first-served basis.

When the college’s 2024 spring semester began in mid-January, Harriet’s Hub opened with regular weekly hours. Fun opening specials, such as Welcome Back Snack Packs, were planned to bring students in and decrease stigma. A student art contest asked for creations describing what supporting the whole student means to them. Student submissions were displayed in the hub, and the winning entry—a Rubik’s Cube created by a first-generation American student—shared a profound message:

My goal with this piece is to show others that they belong, and they can be from one culture and the other. They don't have to choose or solve the Rubik's cube to fit in; it is perfectly fine to embrace both.

Meeting Students’ Needs

The only surprise, Vandenburgh said, is how well-received Harriet’s Hub has been. A total of 104 students visited the center in its first five weeks, for a total of 228 visits. She stated,

We didn’t know how popular this was going to be. Reflecting on it, we planned seven weeks of events to get students into the hub. We had students in the hub from week one. We did not know this was going to take off right away. Now we sit back and assess, determine how we adjust going forward.

Students may take one bagful of food products a week. Their name and student ID number are collected upon entry to assist with planning. For those in need, Harriet’s Hub has helped fill the gaps when budgets are stretched too thin. In reference to the support offered at the hub, Student Zariyah Bowser said, “Our school cares about our well-being outside of the classroom.” Another student, Kylee Yon, noted that,

Being in a second admit program is very time-consuming with all the clinical hours, class time, and studying time . . . so it is challenging to have a consistent job. Harriet’s Hub allows my classmates and me to quickly get items that we need, and it provides us with great financial relief. My classmates and I are very grateful for the opportunity the hub provides us with as we finish our last semester of the radiography program.

According to Precious Miller, Director of Basic Needs and Belonging at Michigan Center for Student Success,

Harriet's Hub stands as a beacon of unwavering support for student success, offering a comprehensive array of essential services under one roof. By offering free, nutritious food; inclusive spaces; and access to vital resources, Jackson College ensures that no student faces basic needs insecurity alone. With this one-stop shop approach, students are empowered to thrive academically and personally, fostering a campus culture where every student's well-being is prioritized.

Looking to the Future

Students have also gotten involved in running the center, with many volunteers working at the desk and assisting patrons. Students from across campus have also helped unload deliveries from trucks when they arrive, building familiarity with the center. More community partnerships will assist the continued growth of the center, and Jackson College looks forward to expanding the hub’s reach.


Fletcher, C., Cornett, A., Webster, J., & Ashton, B. (2023). Student financial wellness survey: Fall 2022 semester results. Trellis Company. https://www.trelliscompany.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/05/SFWS-Aggregate-Report_FALL-2022.pdf

Michigan Association of United Ways. (2023). ALICE in the crosscurrents: COVID and financial hardship in Michigan. https://michiganassociationofunited.app.box.com/s/0djoyw0f1pisx258i025vsnhgqyai8sx


Feeding America. (2021). Map the meal gap. https://map.feedingamerica.org/county/2021/overall/michigan

Goldrick-Rab, S., Richardson, J., Schneider, J., Hernandez, A., & Cady, C. (2018). Still hungry and homeless in college. Wisconsin HOPE Lab. https://www.studentarc.org/tools-and-resources/report/wisconsin-hope-lab-still-hungry-and-homeless

Lead image: Harriet’s Hub Jackets for Jets

Jamie Vandenburgh is Assistant Dean, Instruction, and Marilynn Fryer is a writer, Marketing, at Jackson College in Jackson, Michigan.

Opinions expressed in Member Spotlight are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.