Student-parents balance two lives

Britt Johnsen

When junior Dawn Montag got pregnant, she said she had no idea what to expect.

Montag is one of hundreds of University students who balance classes and parenting, a task affecting their time, money and emotions.

“It’s almost impossible,” Montag said about her schedule.

Although she is a full-time student, she works 37 hours per week to cover the extra costs of raising a child.

Baby formula usually costs her $30 a week, she said, and diapers for Aimee, her 10-month-old daughter, cost about $20 every two weeks.

“And then there’s clothing,” she said. “Kids grow.”

To avoid child-care costs, Montag has her friends watch Aimee when they can. She said if she cannot find someone to watch her, she has to skip her classes.

Despite the problems, Montag said her life has changed for the better.

“I wasn’t responsible,” she said. “I was going to a lot of house parties. I had a fake ID. I’m much more stable now.”

Being a student and a mother makes it difficult to remain financially stable, said Xong Hang, a 19-year-old with a 2-year-old daughter. The nursing student lives with her boyfriend and her father.

Last year, her boyfriend went bankrupt because of the extra costs of raising their daughter.

In order to help out with student needs, the Student Parent HELP Center offers state and private grant options, scholarships and emergency funding.

To receive financial assistance, students must be undergraduates, have at least a 2.0 grade point average and have applied for federal student financial aid.

Susan Warfield, an assistant counselor at the HELP center, said they also offer emotional support for students.

“A lot of students feel invisible and out of place on campus,” Warfield said.

The center is available to help students find a place to study, use computers, socialize, seek counseling or find information on where to go for additional help.

Warfield said students who work in, use and meet in the center range in age from 18 to 55. She said parents and expecting mothers offer each other useful advice.

Another University group, the Student Parent Association, is also designed to help student-parents support one another. The group is registered, but it has not had an official meeting yet. It was formed a few weeks ago by people in the Student Parent HELP center.

Junior Lakeisha Ware, whose daughter Gabriella is 6 months old, said she appreciates the center’s support groups. She said she has endured criticism since she became pregnant.

She said she and other student-parents are judged by many people who, for example, question how they get pregnant. She said this is very discouraging.

“It makes me think twice,” Ware said. “Some days I think, should I come to school or drop out?”

Gabriella’s father, junior Buddy Kpola said the center is useful, but he wishes he saw more men there.

“It would make it more comfortable,” Kpola said.

Student-parent April Haven said she will graduate this semester with a 3.8 GPA.

She said her own visible stress can affect her 6-year-old daughter’s mood.

“You can’t be tired,” she said. “If you don’t smile, they won’t smile.”

Time is a big issue for many student-parents.

Junior Shelley Guthrie, is away from her daughter Amirah from 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. She said she feels guilty sometimes about not being able to spend much time with her 3-year-old.

Guthrie said if her daughter is sick or a babysitter is not available, she is forced to take time away from school.