The Basic Needs Center aims to enhance student success at the University of Utah by providing resources for day-to-day needs like food, healthcare, financial counseling, and more.
Housed in the A. Ray Olpin University Union at the U, the center is planned as a pilot in spring 2020, with a satellite in Health Sciences Education Building. It is open to all students, and the purpose is to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.
Social work graduate student Sarah Elizabeth Garza-Levitt has been a major contributor to the planning and creation of the new center. “Coordinated basic need support is really important for college student persistence, retention, and completion, and that is why I am so passionate about it,” Garza-Levitt said.
She knows firsthand what it’s like being a student in need: she faced homelessness when she was 13, became a single parent at 15, and earned her GED at 16. Over a period of 23 years, she worked on her associate’s degree and graduated with an AS in 2017. Throughout hard circumstances, Garza-Levitt stayed steadfast in her goal of attaining a college education, completed her bachelor’s degree in 2019, and is now a master’s student and full-time staff member at the U.
There aren’t any college student basic need centers in Utah, and Garza-Levitt is working with other local institutions, such as Utah Valley University to inspire comprehensive basic need centers for students across the state.
Garza-Levitt is passionate about destigmatizing college student hunger and homelessness. She hopes to reconstruct the starving student narrative. “It is a really big social justice issue, and we need to work on destigmatizing the use of these resources and see it, and use it as a student empowerment initiative,” Garza-Levitt said.
“Resiliency isn’t given,” she said. “Resiliency is built, it is forged through adversary and challenge. If we can offer coordinated basic needs support than we can help build student resiliency through that support.”
For more information, visit the Basic Needs Center website: union.utah.edu/resources-spaces/basic-needs-center.
Find this article and a lot more in the 2020 “Student Innovation @ the U” report. The publication is presented by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to celebrate student innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs.