What Do You Need?

You don’t need a blog to tell you things are not the same lately. Life for all of us has changed suddenly and dramatically in this pandemic. Our students are not physically in school, parents are grappling with significant pressures, nonprofits are furloughing and laying off employees, and many for-profit businesses are closing their doors permanently. Our higher education partners are overwhelmed with the fundamental needs of their students, virtual classroom modifications and future enrollment projections. Milestone events like prom and graduation are being virtualized or cancelled entirely. If there was a way to identify an end date to all of this madness, perhaps some of the anxiety surrounding life would lift. But as much as we crave that certainty, it is not in the cards for us yet.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed during this time, given all of the need in our community. I keep thinking of the age-old allegory of the long spoons, where people are forced to eat with spoons so long that they cannot feed themselves. In one room, there is no cooperation, and everyone eventually starves despite being surrounded by an endless banquet. In the other room, the inhabitants feed each other across the table, and are blissfully satisfied. The parable is an excellent reminder that even living in a state of abundance, we have to serve one another in order to find fulfillment.

Since this crisis first began, San Antonio Education Partnership advisors have reached out to 4,500 San Antonio students. They are offering students the support they so desperately need, with virtual college advising services that are tailored to each individual student. Every day, they are asking “What do you need today? I’m here for you.”

Our high school students should be celebrating their accomplishments and looking forward to their future, but instead, they are trying to access resources for online learning with little to no support. Students are grieving the loss of their high school graduations, navigating countless potential career pathways, facing uncertainty in college planning and financing, all while trying to process what is happening in the world.

And, our college advisors continue to say, “What do you need today? I’m here for you.”

The foundation of our mission is to provide individualized advising, college access, and resources along with scholarships. While it might not appear that we are a critical component in getting our community back on its feet, we absolutely are. History shows that in times of economic hardship, college enrollment goes up. We know our services are integral in lifting our community out of this crisis and economic disarray. Like so many other nonprofits, we have had to make difficult decisions in our operations: the temporary closing of cafécollege and postponing our spring fundraising event, Hard Truths: A Conversation about the Inequities in Education. With this, comes uncertainty in our normal funding sources and potential future difficult decisions.

We cannot afford to lose our students right now. The decisions they make today are more crucial than ever. Our students, our community, and our economy are at stake. Now is the time to step up and reach more students, encouraging them in their educational dreams.

I invite you to celebrate the accomplishments of our students by wearing your college sweatshirt/t-shirt on Friday, May 1. We all need something to celebrate right now, and our students would love to feel your support. Post a photo of you in your college attire, tag @CafeCollegeSA and @The_SAEP, with the hashtags: #COLLEGEWEEKSA and #COLLEGEISNTCANCELLED.

Thank you for being the family our students need right now. We are grateful for your commitment and your willingness to share our story. Stay healthy and strong.



Lisa Cunningham

Executive Director – San Antonio Education Partnership