RICHMOND, Va. -- Hunger and homelessness are widespread among college students across the country, but one Chester woman is doing her part to address the issue.
The problem requires helping hands from all across the community, Quayle Agurs said. That’s why she founded the nonprofit "Secure the Student."
When Agurs isn’t working her day job to recruit teachers for area schools, you’ll likely find her giving back through her nonprofit.
The organization grew out of extensive research while she was working on her masters degree, when Agurs said she saw a bleak and concerning picture of food and housing insecurity among college students.
“It really spoke to me because I thought wow, college is already difficult enough. When you think about the necessities of life such as food and shelter and the idea of not having that, it really struck a chord with me,” Agurs said.
She’s familiar with what the big picture looks like across the country.
A 2018 study done by Temple University and Wisconsin Hope Lab consisting of 43,000 4-year and community college students from twenty different states.
Findings reveal that 36 percent of the students were food insecure, and another 36 percent were housing insecure, meaning they were unable to pay rent or keep up with utilities, and needed to move frequently.
The Hampton University grad and her volunteers are now on a mission to help.
Agurs said that area colleges are stepping in with much needed food items and that she is encouraged to see programs like VCU’s RamPantry, or VUU Cares, which doles out food gift cards, toiletries and other necessities to Virginia Union students in need.
There’s also a food pantry on each campus of J. Sergeant Reynolds Community college.
Now Agurs is eager for her nonprofit to partner with colleges, local businesses and donors to reach more students.
“Essentially we are providing pop up campus pantries for food and giving toiletries in addition to groceries and housing assistance,” Agurs said.
Agurs has already had students from as far away as Georgia reach out to Secure the Student. She said her goal is to be a lifeline for them, because most students she encounters are determined to graduate so they can secure a better life.
“All of them are just grateful to be in school and are doing what they can to get by, regardless of means or lack thereof. So, yes they value education and are trying to make it work,” Agurs said.
Secure the Student collects non perishable food items, toiletries and monetary donations that can be used to help students with housing. If you own a business and would consider placing a Secure the Student bin in your office to collect needed supplies, they’d like to hear from you. If you would like to make a monetary donation, go to www.securethestudent.org.
The group also participate in an online fundraiser through Amazon. Customers can go to www.smile.amazon.com, select Secure the Student (Chester) and shop for items. If the items purchased are Amazon Smile eligible, her nonprofit will receive .5% of the cost.