Student aid a ‘lifesaver’ for student’s new family

For Nicaraguan-born Ruben Gomez, 23, a U.S. student aid program was “a lifesaver.”

When his son, Matthias, was born by his fiancée, Hazel Arceda, on June 16, 2012, the couple was struggling to make even their most basic needs while he took classes at Miami- Dade College’s Kendall campus.

“I was earning $250 every two weeks in a student assistance job, but suddenly we had an immediate $400 bill to pay for our son’s medical costs,” he said.

“With the Single Stop program, it took just 10 minutes to apply and get approved for Medicaid that paid that first doctor’s bill, as well as begin providing food to feed our family,” he added. “That help really became a miracle for us then, and for our future.”

Single Stop USA at Miami Dade College offers its students screening for multiple government benefits, expedited by MDC’s Benefits Enrollment Network for rapid screening and potential approval. The service is freely provided for all students and family members.

Over the past two years, multiple financial assistance has helped Ruben complete his Associate in Arts degree at the Kendall Campus where his diligent efforts in administrative posts as well as studies led to graduation and serving as president of the Student Government Association.
“Single Stop created a safety net so I could continue attending school full time,” Gomez said. “I never missed a class.”

Relieving such costs for him and his family also opened the door for continuing his studies at Florida International University where he is due to graduate in December with a Bachelor of Arts degree, double majoring in Political Science and International Relations with a minor in business, even as he continues working at the Kendall Campus as Social Media Administrator. The couple and their newborn son continue living in a condominium opposite the Kendall Campus.

At the same time, Hazel has qualified to continue work in Early Childhood Management (“which is really appropriate,” laughed Ruben) and attends English classes at MDC Kendall.

Gomez, now a U. S. citizen, became a highlight at the Social Invitation Fund Fifth Annual Convening and Celebration held at the White House in Washington, DC, appearing in a “What Works Showcase” to demonstrate how the program helped him.

He attended with MDC’s Elisabeth Mason, Single Stop CEO and co-founder of the MDC network that has helped students over rough financial spots by leveraging more than $27 million in benefits and services to date.

Rosa Rojas, Ruben’s mother, brought her 9-year-old son to Miami in 1999 to escape the harsh post-regime era of the Sandinista government at a time of economic crisis conditions in that Central American nation.

“I can remember children digging through garbage for food,” Ruben recalled. “I know how poverty can destroy people only wanting to better themselves.”

Today, the young father wants to find a position with the U.S. State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“I want to give back to this country that is helping me when I need it most,” he said.

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