College students are challenged every day by the cost of living in the Bay Area. Many struggle with bills, debt and food insecurity. In order to support their educational goals, College of San Mateo has partnered with United Way Bay Area to bring a SparkPoint Center to its campus.

The SparkPoint Center offers financial coaching, benefits enrollment and access to free groceries.

The SparkPoint CSM Center primarily serves College of San Mateo students, but is open to the entire San Mateo community. Coaches work with clients for up to three years to create a step-by-step plan to set and achieve personal financial goals. Students learn how to understand and budget their financial aid refunds and other sources of income, as well as credit history and how to build or repair credit scores.

SparkPoint can also arrange free tax preparation assistance with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. And in partnership with the San Mateo Federal Credit Union, SparkPoint helps clients manage their checking and savings accounts, including access to discounted or free banking services.

The SparkPoint coordinator helps students find, apply for, and manage their access to public benefits such as CalFresh, MediCal, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

The CSM SparkPoint Food Pantry

College students in the Bay Area are increasingly facing food insecurity, so SparkPoint CSM features a food pantry stocked with a variety of healthy options. It has dry and canned goods such as beans, rice, cereal, and pasta and perishables like milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, and fruit and vegetables. Second Harvest provides the food and students and community members can receive free groceries once a week.

Discounted Grab & Go Meals for Students

SparkPoint has partnered with the Bulldog Bookstore, Second Harvest, and Associated Students of CSM to provide an innovative new discounted meal program for students. CSM Grab & Go meals are available at the Bookstore to CSM students with ID. Meals include a sandwich, a few snacks (a piece of fruit & string cheese), and a bottle of water for $5 (a retail value of about $9). Modeled after a similar program at Cañada College, CSM’s Grab & Go program has already distributed more than 500 meals in its first month.

Finally, SparkPoint has also replicated an initiative started at Skyline College called SparkPoint Snacks that provides baskets around campus with free snacks for students. The baskets are distributed at key student support offices like EOPS, the Career Center, and the CSM STEM Center.

United Way Bay Area has now opened 22 SparkPoint Centers in the region. All three SMCCCD colleges now have a SparkPoint Center (SparkPoint Skyline College opened in 2010 and SparkPoint Cañada College in 2015). The centers have been immensely successful:

  • Clients see an average monthly salary increase of $807 after two years in SparkPoint
  • 74% of SparkPoint clients maintain their financial goals moving forward
  • 4,656 people have received one-on-one financial coaching

Together, CSM, Cañada College and Skyline College have distributed more than 200,000 pounds of feed and provided financial counseling to more than 200 students in the past year.

SparkPoint CSM is headed by Emily Barrick, a licensed physician assistant and the director of the CSM Wellness Center, and Program Coordinator Nicole Salviejo.

CSM will celebrate with a Grand Opening for the new SparkPoint Center on Wednesday, November 14 in College Center Building 10, from 11:30-2:30 pm. This event is open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. See the SparkPoint website for details. College of San Mateo gratefully acknowledges its partners, United Way Bay Area, San Mateo Federal Credit Union and Second Harvest.