Housing Fair Success

December 5, 2017

College Health Corps VISTA Katelyn Reid serves at Minneapolis Technical and Community College (MCTC) in their Student Support Center and was successful in one of her very first projects: putting on a housing fair for the students. The housing fair is an annual event started by Yasir Hassam, the College Health Corps VISTA last year. Katelyn not only continued the tradition, but expanded it and added her own mark by including a workshop for students in addition to having organizations table. The workshop was such a success that MCTC is planning on offering workshops at future housing fairs. Read on to hear from Katelyn herself about how she managed to make the fair a triumph.

Q: What is the housing fair and why is it important for the student body of MCTC?

A: The fair was an event that we had at the beginning of the semester for students who were interested in finding housing for the year. Not only did we have different housing resources, such as affordable housing, student housing, homeless shelters, etc., but we also had other resources available as well, such as representatives from clinics and even an organization that distributes free cell phones to people. I want to stress how important of an event this is for MCTC students, especially since we do have a large population of homeless or highly mobile students. We also found it to be very helpful to have many different kinds of housing resources available to our students so that we were helping out students from all backgrounds, not just a select few.

Q: What did you do to make the housing fair such a success?

A: One of the most important things I did to ensure that the housing fair was a success was connecting with professors of classes whose students would benefit from attending the housing fair, such as classes in the human services major. We looked at the schedule of these courses and tried to coordinate our fair around when the classes were in session. We then reached out to the professors and invited them to bring their students. This was very helpful in that we had an estimated 170 students attend the fair, many of whom would have otherwise been unable to come because of class.

We also helped to coordinate a housing workshop that was put on an hour before the resource fair began. This was really successful because one of the professors who we had talked to brought his class to the workshop. Great conversation was had during the workshop and it easily could have continued going on past the hour allotment.

Q: Were there any unexpected outcomes of the fair? Anything you didn’t anticipate?

A: One thing that I had not anticipated in the aftermath of the fair was the number of students who came in to the Student Support Center after the fair who had been unable to attend due to conflicts. I had not expected students to continue to ask about the organizations who had been on campus. I learned that in the future, we should keep documentation of the agencies who came for the fair on hand.

Q: What did you see and experience during the fair that showed it was a benefit to students?

A: On the day of the fair, I spent a lot of time downstairs in the classroom where a housing workshop preceding the fair was taking place. I had only been in my service location for about a month at this time, so I was unaware of how receptive to events the students at MCTC were. After the workshop, I took the elevator back upstairs and as the elevator doors opened, I was surprised to see crowds of people around the tables where the organizations were tabling. It was bustling with activity, and much busier than I had ever seen that area before. It was so fulfilling to see my hard work come into action. Sometimes, it can be hard as a VISTA to stay in the background and deal primarily with indirect service; however, on that day, I realized how important our job is and that just because we don’t always see our efforts come to life, we are still an extremely important part of our sites.

Q: You are in the planning stages for a second fair – how is it looking different this time around? What are you doing to ensure its successful?

A: It is going to be a lot easier planning a second housing fair because I now have contacts from the organizations who attended the last fair as well as representatives from agencies who I spoke with last fall, but were unable to attend at that time. Now that we have established connections with those organizations, I am hopeful that we can create a long-lasting partnership with many of them so that they will return to MCTC for many more fairs to come.

Q: What advice would you give to someone trying to set up a fair and get buy- in from partner businesses and organizations?

A: There were already a few organizations interested that we had partnered with in the past. This was really helpful in forming the foundation of the fair because I was able to reach out to agencies who I knew would be interested in coming back to campus. Many of the other organizations, I noticed, had representatives who were alumni of MCTC. That was really special to see because it showed the impact the school had had on them. I think that this was another reason that we were able to secure so many organizations. For the others who we had not partnered with in the past nor had MCTC alumni as part of their staff, they are organizations with representatives whose primary role in the agency is to go to fairs and advertise their resources. Many organizations were happy to come on to campus to share what they have to offer with students. MCTC is a big school is located in a vibrant community within the Twin Cities and because of the diverse population (average student is 28 years old), it is the perfect place for housing resources of all sorts to come and share with students what they have to offer.

For more information on the MCTC Student Support Center, click here.

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