Alviana Johnson is an advocate for students in need of food
and shelter

By Marya Jones Barlow

Alviana JohnsonJust one year ago, Communication major Alviana Johnson was waging a silent struggle. After losing her apartment and her job, her dreams of completing college were slipping away. She slept in her car and came to class tired and hungry, wondering how she was going to make it through the day.

“I didn’t want anyone to see me struggling,” she said. “I felt devalued as a person. I couldn’t focus on school. I was ready to quit.”

Her Leadership Studies professor, Jacob Jenkins, Professor of Communication, noticed something was amiss and told Johnson about CSUCI’s Basic Needs and Emergency Intervention program, which offers assistance to students experiencing food and housing insecurity. The program provided Johnson with temporary housing and an emergency grant to get her back on her feet.

“Because of that boost, I was able to take the next step and keep going,” she said. “Now I have all these open doors in front of me. I am an overcomer. I belong here. My grades are fantastic. I sit in the front in all my classes to let my teachers know I’m here to learn.”

Today Johnson shares her story — and the surprising statistics on student food and housing insecurity — to help others. CSUCI estimates that 34% of its students struggle with food scarcity. A recent study by the CSU system revealed that one in 10 CSU students experiences homelessness and four in 10 encounter hunger. Numerous studies have confirmed how food and housing insecurity negatively affect students’ academic, mental and physical well-being, and ability to graduate.

As Student Government’s Director of External Affairs, Johnson works alongside administrators and peers as an advocate for students who may be silently struggling, helping connect them with resources they need to better navigate the University.

“It could happen to anybody at any time,” she said. “Your favorite student could be suffering right now. If I can help keep someone from living in fear of not having their needs met, I will do everything I can.”

That’s why Johnson was particularly touched when CSUCI’s 2019 graduating class chose to raise money for the Hot Meals initiative as its class gift. With a donation of $10, students could buy a hot meal for a fellow student in need. The class exceeded its goal by more than 34%, with 591 students donating $6,695 before May 1.

Johnson also was featured in a giving campaign by the University that highlights the importance of the Hot Meals program and Basic Needs Initiative.

“I was amazed and very proud of all the students and alumni who pledged $10 or more to help their fellow Dolphins,” she said. “I’m so grateful that I get to work in Student Government, where I’ve gained the platform, knowledge and tools to help the entire CSUCI community. Every single person I meet, I’m like, ‘How can I educate, encourage, or empower this person?’ My goal is to spread love.”

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© Spring 2019 / Volume 23 /Number 01 / Bi-annual

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