Student-parent group focuses on political action

The Student Parent Association was formed to advocate for student-parents at the University.

Jenna Ross

Motivated by recent child-care budget cuts, parent and psychology senior Mara Sheldon launched a group to advocate for issues important to University student-parents.

In December, Sheldon started the Student Parent Association, which she said she hopes will raise visibility and advocate for University students with children.

In the three months following its creation, Sheldon and the group’s officers registered the group as a student organization, prepared its constitution and applied for grants.

The association also received support from the Student Parent HELP Center, the University’s support program for student-parents.

While the new group serves many of the same students as the Student Parent HELP Center, it allows its members to campaign for their causes.

“(The Student Parent Association) is able to take political action and do things HELP couldn’t do,” said Shelley Guthrie, a sociology senior who is an officer in the group. “It’s a student-led group that’s more about political advocacy.”

The group’s political actions will culminate April 29 when it hosts a day displaying educational opportunities for inner-city youth.

The “huge, creative career fair” will be held on Northrop Mall, complete with a reggae band, volunteers from various student groups and, with luck, a few legislative members, Sheldon said.

“We want the abstract ideas of ‘inner-city kids’ and ‘student-parents’ to become realities for these lawmakers,” Sheldon said. “Perhaps next time education funds are on the chopping block, they’ll think twice.”

But beyond politics, the event is also about volunteering for an important cause, said Susan Warfield, the association’s adviser and coordinator for the Student Parent HELP Center.

“It’s a chance for them to identify themselves and give back to the community in a way that is important to them,” Warfield said.

Sheldon said the event serves multiple purposes for the organization, but most importantly, it will impact the children involved.

“I can’t wait for them to look up at these huge buildings of this great University and fall in love with learning at such a place,” Sheldon said.

Through this event and others, Guthrie said, the group hopes to connect with other student-parents, who number more than 500 at the University.

The association sent information to all the University’s identified student-parents and has received an incredible response, Sheldon said.

“We have an abundance of people with tons of energy and a need for immediate action,” Sheldon said.

“You wouldn’t think that students with as many stresses and strains as us would be like that, but we are,” she said. “We definitely are.”