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Wendy Garner Provides Care, Compassion and a Listening Ear

When Dallas College students are facing food insecurity, homelessness, child care challenges or other financial obstacles, they can turn to our Basic Needs and Community Connections Team — including our student care coordinators like Wendy Garner — for help and support.

Garner not only oversees the food pantry and clothing closet at Dallas College’s Eastfield Campus, she also helps connect students to services and resources.

“As a student, when you’re carrying burdens like being a single parent, your home life isn’t good, or you don’t know how you’re going to have a place to stay … it’s really hard to stay focused on your studies. I really enjoy being able to offer services and being there for students,” Garner said.

Garner recalls one student, a single parent, who came into the Eastfield food pantry one day in tears.

“She said, ‘I just can’t do it. I’m going to give up.’” The student was struggling. Her income was just too much for her to qualify for food stamps, but she didn’t have enough money to cover all her bills.

Garner gave her milk and groceries from the pantry and made sure she always had enough for her daughter. When the student was dealing with her mother’s death, Wendy also encouraged her to seek out counseling services.

The next semester, Garner remembered, “She came back, and she was so refreshed. She was able to focus more.” Now, that student has graduated with an associate degree from Dallas College and is pursuing nursing.

“That’s what I really love about working here. I know how hard it is, and I want to support that person along the way.”

Struggle and Sacrifice

Garner knows from personal experience what it’s like to struggle while attending college. She started her career in the mortgage industry, but when the industry was hit by the 2008 recession, she left the field and decided to go back to school.

She wanted to study psychology and transition into the nonprofit sector. Because of her background and having dealt with abuse, she wanted to help people in similar circumstances.

That’s how she first ended up at Dallas College’s Mountain View Campus, where she got her associate degree.

Garner faced the same obstacles many Dallas College students face today: a single mother of two, she was on food stamps, struggling to make ends meet while in school.

But for Garner, the sacrifices were worth it. “I wanted to get an education more than I wanted to go make a lot of money. I wanted to show my kids that education was important.”

A Listening Ear, A Shoulder to Cry On

After first working as a substitute teacher, Garner decided she could make more of an impact on students outside of the classroom. So, she applied for a job in the TRIO department at Mountain View, eventually transitioning into her current role as student care coordinator at Eastfield.

She says the role aligns with everything she wanted to do: help students facing setbacks find a better life for themselves.

“I enjoy being a listening ear and being able to guide them to the direction that they’re seeking or finding alternatives to help them as they pursue their academics — because what I don’t want them to do is to give up. And sometimes when your barriers are very heavy, you choose to give up instead of push forward.”

Garner also speaks from the experience of being the first in her family to go to college, like many of the students she serves.

“They don’t have family members that went to school, and so they don’t know, and I didn’t either…Sometimes your family members don’t really understand and can’t offer you that support you’re needing, even if it’s just a shoulder to cry on or someone to talk to. I like offering that to the students because I understand. I once was there.”

This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.

Published inWhy Dallas College?