Finding Support Through Family Connect



Photo from the Shawnee State University App, showing one of the many symbols representing Family Connect.

Jerilyn Garrett, Staff Reporter

Family Connect at Shawnee State University offers students a support system that they may not have elsewhere. Providing students with traditional family celebrations and guidance, the group creates a safe community filled with acceptance and meaningful connections.

Christina Baker, the creator, organizer, and programmer of Family Connect, was inspired to start the group after meeting several students who did not have family support from other sources. “I wanted them to have people they recognized as safe people to confide in and get support from,” states Baker. Baker also recognized that some students did not have anyone to celebrate holidays with and she felt that there was more she could do in her role to support them.

Family Connect is now an established group of students, staff and faculty that celebrate traditional family milestones and holidays together. Students can join Family Connect for any reason, though most who join were raised in foster care, are LGBTQ+ and allies, live independently or are international students. Family Connect also accepts students who may not need support themselves but would like to support others. Besides support and celebrations, they also offer mentorships, campus resources and “access to at least one person in every office on campus who will understand the individualized need of a member of Family Connect,” Baker says.

Typically, Family Connect conducts a variety of activities for students such as birthday celebrations, dinner outings, shows and a Thanksgiving potluck dinner. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and established safety guidelines, Baker explains that they will be utilizing virtual options such as Zoom and Facebook to hold activities but they also have some new and different ideas to add to the mix. She says “it will be a bit different this year, but we’re still planning to celebrate.”

Reminiscing on the first birthday celebration Family Connect held, Baker spoke of a student who shared that they had not received a birthday cake or card in 6 years. “That’s when I knew the moments and support we were offering made a difference in students, knowing they belong here at SSU with us,” said Baker. 

Baker would like students to know that “we are here for them no matter who they are and we want to make their time here at SSU a supported and accepted one.” If you are interested in joining Family Connect, sign up here.