Student parents have options at KSU

Mariana Silva

CDC, WRC can help families find resources

If it wasn’t for her aunt who told her about Kent State, Erica Williams, 25, a student and a mother of a 5-year-old girl, wouldn’t be a pre-medicine junior at the university today.

Like other student parents, Williams didn’t know Kent State offered resources to help students, faculty and staff with parenting. But four years ago, she learned all about what is available to her and her daughter at Kent State.

“It has its challenges, definitely. We are not the traditional students, but it’s OK,” Williams said. “Things don’t work out all the time like you wanted, but you just make the best of it.

“And having a support system is key; having a place that you are going to be able to go and somebody understands what it means to be a mom and a student.”

The Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Adult and Veteran Services and the Child Development Center offer support to those who, like Williams, are students, parents and workers.

Williams started at Kent State as a student member of the Literacy and Independence for Family Education (LIFE) program, where she learned how to balance the responsibilities of being a single mother and a student. She is now a mentor at the program and helps others to deal with the same issues she had as a mother going to college.

Heather Adams, director of the Women’s Resource Center, said although the center doesn’t offer programs for parents, it helps them find the resources they need at the university or close by.

The center offers free consultation and books about parenting, and it also provides pump stations for mothers who are breastfeeding and attending college or working at the university.

“Our center is about getting information and resources to people,” Adams said. “We are about connecting people with resources.”

Some of the programs the WRC can direct students, faculty and staff members to are the Child Development Center and the Center for Adult and Veteran Services.

The CDC, which offers childcare, works as a laboratory to students majoring in early childhood education, said Pamela Hutchins, co-coordinator of the Children’s Program at the CDC.

The center, whose services are not free to faculty, staff or students, offers care to 135 children from 18 months to 5 years old and follows the university’s calendar.

Hutchins said students are one of the largest groups seeking the center’s help and that most of them receive financial assistance from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Families Services to pay for childcare.

While childcare is a great resource for parents, it’s not the only resource students need, said Rachel Anderson, director of the Center for Adult and Veteran Services.

“You can get childcare benefits while you are in the classroom and that’s excellent,” Anderson said. “But when do you study?”

Besides offering help to locate resources in the area, such as childcare and childcare assistance, the center provides academic boot camps and study rooms to help students succeed as students and as parents.

While parents attend workshops, babysitting is provided through a partnership between the Center for Adult and Veteran Services and the College of Education, Health and Human Services. At the center, students can also sign up for the LIFE program, which assists up to 10 single parent-students during their first year at Kent State as parents.

The program is assisting six single mothers and seven children this year. No single father has ever signed up for the program, Anderson said.

“They are people you see in class and you wouldn’t know they have children in day care,” Anderson said. “Single parents do go to school.”

Like Williams, single parents who graduate from LIFE can become mentors to the program and help other single parents in their first year as students and parents.

“Single parents want to meet other parents and they need some help to jump start their academics,” Anderson said. “It can be a real struggle.”

Anderson said all LIFE students live at Allerton Student and Family housing complex, which is another resource families and single parents can take advantage of while taking classes at Kent State.

“In order for it to be a living and learning community, you have to live and learn together,” Anderson said. “The students who are impacted by the LIFE program aren’t only the parents but also students in these other classes.”

The apartments are available only to legally married couples or to single parents who have at least one dependent child living with her or him.

“We can do it like everybody else,” Williams said. “Just because you have a child, that does not mean you can’t go to college. No one should get in your mind that if you have a child that automatically limits your options of what you can do.”

• Women’s Resource Center – Alumn Drive– 330 672-9230

• Center for Adult and Veteran Services – 181 Michael Schwartz Center – East Summit Street – 330 672-7933

• Child Development Center – Loop Road – 330 672-2559

Contact diversity reporter Mariana Silva at [email protected].