Minnesota Southeast grad returns to help students in Red Wing, Winona meet basic needs

Akilah Childs
Akilah Childs, a 2016 graduate of Minnesota State College Southeast, is concentrating on expanding and organizing the college’s food pantries during her first semester as a basic needs outreach specialist. (Minnesota State College Southeast photo)

RED WING, Minn. (WKBT) — Akilah Childs was a BPOC when she was a student at Minnesota College Southeast, and she’s back as a big person on campus again, as well as on the college’s Winona campus.
Childs, who graduated from the college’s Early Child Education program in 2016, was on the Red Wing school’s Student Senate, served as a peer tutor, helped plan campus-wide events and assisted Student Services with recruiting and admissions.
“A lot of people at Southeast were very supportive of my success and helping me find my way. I made really strong connections with my teachers, my advisers and people in student affairs,” Childs said.
“I think I found myself here,” she said. “It’s very fulfilling and it makes me feel good to know that I made an impact.”
The new role she assumed this month is as a basic needs outreach specialist through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, serving students not only in Red Wing but also in Winona.
Volunteers In Service To America members serve full-time in nonprofit organizations and public agencies for one-year terms. Working in office settings, they gain experience and leadership skills in preparation for a life of service in the public, private or nonprofit sector.
This semester, Childs is concentrating on expanding and organizing the college’s food pantries.
A 2019 survey of Minnesota state two-year college students found that 1 in 3 ran short on food, and 26% said they went hungry, said Melissa Carrington-Irwin, MSC Southeast’s associate dean of students and student success director.
The college hopes that offering students access to fresh food and nonperishable staples will reduce the stress of students’ wondering where they will get their next meal, Childs said.
“We want to normalize the idea of getting help, remove the stigma,” she said. “Especially in a time like now with COVID-19, everybody could use a little bit of help.”