Just a call away: Student Support Line offers assistance to BCSC students, families

The woman behind the Student Support Line, an initiative of United Way of Bartholomew County and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., is always on the clock.

But for Alicia Monroe, director of special projects at United Way of Bartholomew County, it’s not work. It’s service.

When BCSC received a $1.1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to launch its Counseling Counts Community Initiative, a program designed to assist students with mental health and other needs, one area that Monroe noticed was missing from the programming was how to best serve families in need.

“We know they need help but don’t know where to get them assistance,” Monroe said. “That’s where United Way came in.”

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Filling in the gaps

The Indiana 2-1-1 service line is available to families across the state, including Bartholomew County residents. Callers can dial 2-1-1 and be connected with an Indiana-based professional who can share local resources available in their communities.

The calls result in Hoosiers being connected to a variety of health and human services ranging from food pantries and support groups to legal aid and health care.

Prior to May 2019, Bartholomew County callers could reach Bartholomew County’s United Way 2-1-1 service and talk to a Columbus-based volunteer. The local call center closed in May 2019 as part of a statewide initiative enacted by the Indiana 2-1-1 Partnership, Inc. to become more cost effective.

Although the statewide 2-1-1 service still offers assistance regarding Columbus-area resources, Monroe noticed a high need for the Counseling Counts line to continue for BCSC families.

The long-time Bartholomew County 2-1-1 service administrator transitioned into a new, but similar, role as United Way’s director of special projects, specifically administering the Student Support Line.

The Student Support Line allows any BCSC faculty, administrator, counselor or staff member with a student who has a need and is unsure how to help them to call Monroe for assistance. Monroe works to find resources to connect that student and/or their family with help.

“We’re trying to ensure we’re supporting the staff at schools and they’re not having to essentially become case workers or be experts of the resources in the community,” Monroe said.

“They can gather that information very easily from the student and pass that along to me. Then, those kids can focus on school and not have to worry about what is going on at home or maybe not going on at home. They can essentially be better students.”

The program rolled out during the 2018-2019 academic year and received 14 calls in its first semester. Monroe had already received 45 calls between the start of school in August 2019 through the end of December.

Monroe contributes the higher volume of calls to marketing efforts. In its inaugural rollout, Monroe recognized there was a higher need in the county than what she was seeing in the number of calls.

At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Monroe visited every BCSC school and talked to key staff members who she believed were essential to knowing about the Student Support Line.

Since then, Monroe has received dozens of calls from people needing food, clothing, hygiene products, backpacks and diapers — even housing.

A success story

Earlier this school year, Monroe received a call from one of the local schools about a family in need of a place to stay after discovering black mold in their home. Not only did they have black mold in their home, but the mother and her children also tested positive for black mold in their systems.

Very rarely does Monroe get to talk with the child or family in need of assistance, but in this case, she did.

“I talked to her over the phone and said, ‘I understand this is what is going on. Let’s see what we can do to help you,’” Monroe recalled her initial phone call with the mother.

Monroe reached out to Love Chapel and Columbus Township trustee Ben Jackson to brief them on the situation. They in turn helped the family get the assistance the needed. Monroe said she essentially makes the connections between the people in need and the resources.

“This is one of our success stories,” Monroe said. “Within a few days, she and her kids moved into a new place, a healthier living environment for them.”

Often times, the calls will be requests for tangible items, such as a child who needs a coat or a pair of shoes. Monroe said she frequently visits San Souci, finds kids what they need and drops the items off at the school for the child.

Monroe said the goal is to make sure the kids’ needs are met and they know that someone in the community cares about them without knowing specifically who helped them.

Many of the schools already have some of their own resources or partnerships with local churches, but Monroe said she’s not here to replace those resources.

“We’re trying to fill in the gaps,” Monroe said. “It’s allowing faculty to not spend their own resources, not spend school resources and time and energy in doing all of this. United Way already has connections with resources that help.”

While Monroe is the only person that manages the Student Support Line, she will not call herself a one-woman-band, simply because she recognizes how many other individuals and organizations contribute to making this service happen.

“It’s very gratifying to know I’m here to be able to help them, but it almost solidifies that there is a need out there,” Monroe said. “Kids are close to my heart. I can’t see a child have a need for something and not do something to help solve that problem.”

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The Student Support Line is an initiative of United Way of Bartholomew County and Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Students and families in need of assistance are identified by BCSC faculty, administrators and staff members.

The BCSC employee who identifies the person in need contacts the Student Support Line, who in turn works to match the individual or family with the necessary resources.

The program is not open to the public.

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Learn ways to support United Way of Bartholomew County in its endeavors to assist people across the county at uwbarthco.org.