‘My children are my motivation’

Student-parents’ lifes are full of compromise, but they make it work. Some spoke Wednesday to parents in high school to show college is still possible.

by Emily Kaiser

While sitting in the back of the school bus sophomore year of high school, Andy Schippel’s girlfriend looked him in the eyes and told him she was pregnant.

Despite thinking he had to give up everything for his son, Schippel is now a second-year University medical student on his way to becoming an emergency room doctor.

Schippel spoke Wednesday to fellow University student-parents and 21 teenage moms and expecting mothers from a local high school during the first Student Parent Day in front of Northrop Auditorium.

The event was an opportunity for student-parents to become more visible on campus and to show high school parents that college is an option, said Sythong Somsawat, an economics junior and Student Parent Association president.

“People think once they have kids, they can’t go to college,” she said. “We want to show them we have experienced the same thing they experience, and now we are trying to make our lives better for ourselves and our family.”

Schippel said being a teen parent is something he can easily relate to after his son, Andrew, now 9, was born when Schippel was 16.

“I didn’t even know who I was back then,” he said. “I didn’t really understand what being a dad really meant.”

Schippel married Andrew’s mother, Laura Schippel, in 1999 and they have two other boys: Spencer, 3, and Caleb, 1.

On a normal day, Andy Schippel is on campus by 6 a.m. to study before his 8 a.m. class.

“It’s impossible to study at home,” he said.

When classes ended mid-afternoon Tuesday, Andy Schippel drove back to his Shoreview townhouse. Laura Schippel stays home to watch the two younger boys each day.

Andy Schippel sprawled out on the living room floor while his boys crawled all over him and played with his stethoscope.

Dinner time was chaotic, with Caleb dumping his food on the table, Spencer begging for chocolate milk and Andrew eating quickly to make it to his football practice.

Andy Schippel said money is tight because neither he nor his wife work. All expenses are paid through student loans, he said.

The family goes through about a gallon of milk a day and spends $400 a month on groceries, Laura Schippel said.

During his speech, Andy Schippel said being a parent is stressful, but the greatest pleasure is being able to do something people think you can’t accomplish.

“My children are my motivation,” he said.

No regrets

Sociology sophomore Ashley Silverthorne, another student-parent attending the event, said she wouldn’t have made it through high school without the motivation she found through her now 3-year-old daughter, Brooklyn Brigmon.

Before Brooklyn’s birth, Silverthorne said, she attended seven different high schools.

“I was always a rebel and wasn’t doing a lot of anything,” she said.

Silverthorne said she spent nearly eight months having unprotected sex with her boyfriend before she became pregnant.

Silverthorne had Brooklyn when she was 17, and her daughter gave her a reason to finish high school at the age of 21, and attend the University in 2004.

Silverthorne lives in a trailer park in Coon Rapids where her daughter spends two weeks a month with her. Brooklyn spends the remaining weeks with her father.

Silverthorne is living day-to-day off financial aid and receives rent money from her grandparents, she said.

While Silverthorne attends class, Brooklyn spends the morning and afternoon riding along on her grandfather’s school bus to avoid costly day care.

At Silverthorne’s home Sunday evening, Brooklyn busied herself climbing on the couches one moment and screaming for candy the next.

“Homework is next to impossible,” she said. “Sometimes she is very self-entertaining and other times she wants to be right in my lap.”

Despite the challenges, Silverthorne said she doesn’t regret anything.

“Brooklyn is funny and crazy and gives me plenty of excitement whether I want it or not,” she said.

Teens visit the U

St. Paul’s Adolescent Girls and Parenting Education program for teen parents took a field trip to the University for Student Parent Day.

The teens spent the afternoon meeting with University student-parents to talk about the concerns of raising a child and attending college.

Latasha Calamese, a senior in the program, has a 1-year-old son.

Calamese said she attended the event because she was interested in what programs the University offers and wanted to talk with student-parents about their experiences.

Jeremy Pagel, the program’s family and consumer sciences teacher and a University alumnus, said he is glad the University is recognizing student-parents.

“Many of our students don’t have enough role models to show them it’s possible to be a student-parent,” he said. “We want to highlight that there are endless opportunities for them.”