Two Kent State moms continue pursuit for degree

Elise Franco

Kenya Prade seems like a typical Kent State student dressed in jeans and a white short-sleeved shirt eating her Santa Fe salad from Sunset Strips for lunch in the Hub.

She goes to class, does homework and socializes with her friends during breaks, the same as she has done since her freshman year. But when Prade, senior nursing major, goes home at the end of the day, she doesn’t get to sit on the couch with a beer and watch her favorite primetime television show.

Prade is the single mother of a 3-month-old girl named Keilyn.

“Having a baby and going to school is all about time management,” she said. “I can’t sit and watch TV or go out as much as I used to.”

Each day Prade gets up and goes to class, then comes home and takes care of her daughter.

“She was 3 weeks old when classes started up again,” she said. “I had to adjust really fast, and I am still adjusting now. I am just glad I didn’t have to miss any school.”

Prade said her status as a full-time student and mother does not leave time for a job, but her parents do help support her financially. She also said her cousin baby-sits while she is in class, and other friends and family help out a great deal when it comes to taking care of baby Keilyn.

Prade said choosing not to take time off after giving birth was an easy decision because she has come so far in her education already and is graduating this year.

“Just because I had a baby doesn’t mean my life has to end,” she said. “Finishing college is only going to help me make a better life for her.”

Shimaa Shendy, senior psychology major and mother of a 14-month-old son, said not finishing college wasn’t even an option for her.

“I think, first of all, that moms are really important because moms raise the kids,” she said. “I need a higher education so that when my son comes to me with a question about his homework, I am able to help him.”

Shendy has been married for four years and lives in a house in Stow with her husband and baby.

Like Prade, she is a full-time student, but she also works 30 hours per week as a waitress at Aladdin’s Eatery in Hudson.

Shendy said her husband helps out the most while she is at work and school. Because of her busy schedule, she feels her husband might spend more time with their son than she does.

“It’s kind of upsetting. I am on campus for 12 hours so my son is usually sleeping when I get home,” she said. “I go into his room and just look at him.

“I love the nights he’s not sleeping when I get home, though. He sees me and runs at me, and I just love that.”

Like Prade’s, Shendy’s family helps out whenever they need an extra hand.

Even so, Shendy said she can’t rely on her family for everything and wishes the Child Development Center on Kent State’s campus would allow students to bring their children there.

“It would be great,” she said, “and so much easier.”

Not every college-aged mother or father is in as good a position as these two young women. They both agreed that some type of financial aid to help support students who are parents would be very beneficial.

According to the Office of Financial Aid at Kent State, the university does not offer this type of aid, but these students are not restricted from applying for the scholarships, aid and loans that everyone else can apply for.

Some universities such as Michigan State University and the University of Michigan do offer financial aid programs to students with children.

Shendy and Prade must work extra hard to make a good life for their children, but they do not regret having babies before graduation.

“I didn’t really think it was a huge problem,” Shendy said. “My friends told me I shouldn’t try and get pregnant so soon, but then they didn’t even think I should get married when I did.

“Our families are always willing to help us.”

Prade said the hardest part was the pregnancy.

“It was hard walking from class to class,” she said. “Sitting in the desks were really hard too because I didn’t fit.”

She said teachers were very supportive, and one even gave her a bigger table and a chair to sit in so she would be comfortable.

Besides the people she told, Shendy said no one knew she was pregnant because she was very small.

She said her professors were very understanding.

“One teacher let me sleep on the ‘special’ couch, and I didn’t have to bring doctors excuses if I missed a lot of classes because they all knew what was going on.”

Shendy said she even adopted a “Kent State husband.”

“My friend Ameir took me to all of my classes and carried my books around in my leopard print bag,” she said with a laugh.

Contact general assignment reporter Elise Franco at [email protected].