La Palma-Cerritos AAUW

Support vulnerable students at Cerritos College through Falcon’s Nest

Diane Merrick, Membership Co-VP for the La Palma-Cerritos American Association of University Women (AAUW) introduced guest speaker Pamela Sepulveda at the branch’s November 18, 2021, general meeting at the Cerritos Library. Sepulveda is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and is the Case Manager for the Falcon Basic Needs Program at Cerritos College. She prepared a Power Point Presentation on the topic of “Supporting Our Most Vulnerable Students to Reach Their Academic Goals Through the Falcon’s Nest at Cerritos College.”

Sepulveda has been a social worker for over 20 years. She and her team created the Falcon’s Nest, the centralized support service at Cerritos Community College in June of 2020. She said that she started this Basic Needs Program to offer support for students both on and off campus. She and her team work to ensure that the students’ lack of basic needs do not present barriers to their academic success. The Falcon Basic Needs Center links students to food, hygiene items, housing, financial aid, and includes community collaboration and advocacy.

Sepulveda said that Falcon’s Nest offers wholesome free food shopping, housing partnerships, and preventive programs by seven social workers who prepare “needs assessments” for students and guide them to their most needed resources. Falcon’s Nest also provides for some groceries at Franco’s Pop -Up Market for students who are not eligible for CalFresh or grocery cards. With donations of clothing received from community members, Falcon’s Nest has a section called Franco’s Closet, where students can select gently used professional clothing at no cost to them. Falcon’s Nest is located near the Game Room and the Student Services/Book Store at Cerritos College.

Diane Merrick first heard in March of 2021 that many students at Cerritos College were living in cars and 50 to 60 students lacked food and other necessities. She wanted to help, so she talked to Pam Sepulveda and got a list of food and toiletries that were needed. She then asked the members of the La Palma-Cerritos AAUW for donations. They responded with 250 food items and other personal hygiene items in March and have continued to collect food and clothing in the months that followed. Pam Sepulveda would pick up whatever Diane collected each month.

At the November 18, 2021, meeting, the members of the La Palma-Cerritos Branch of the AAUW brought bags full of canned foods, cereals, toiletries, and other items to the Cerritos Library for Falcon’s Nest. Prior to the meeting that night, Diane said that branch President Beverly Zwick met with her at 5:30 p.m. and brought four boxes of canned food (weighing about 100 pounds) for Falcon’s Nest. More members donated items, so Pam Sepulveda went to Diane’s home in Long Beach to pick up the donations the next day. Pam’s car and trunk were loaded with donations of food and toiletries! Pam Sepulveda thanked members for their generous donations in support of the students at Cerritos College.

At the end of Sepulveda’s presentation, Program Co-VP Karen Cox thanked Pam Sepulveda for coming to give members more information about Falcon’s Nest and the continuing basic needs of students at Cerritos College. Sepulveda received a Certificate of Appreciation and a succulent plant as a gift from all three Program Co-VP’s, Nancy Kawamura, Mary Ann Quinn and Karen Cox.

There is still an ongoing need for donations of canned food, toiletries, and lightly used professional clothing for the students who come for help with basic needs at Falcon’s Nest. Persons who wish to donate items for Falcon’s Nest can contact Membership Co-VP Diane Merrick at 562-594-4129 or contact Pam Sepulveda at Cerritos College at 562-860-2451, X2431.

This article was written by Edna Ethington.