BY MADI TORTORA
Washtenaw Community College is open to helping people while in different stages of life, especially while supporting such a diverse student base. WCC has numerous options for pregnant students or students who have already started families.
Benefits are offered for students with families to make the process of attending college a little easier. Being a student can be difficult, but to imagine being a parent as well can be overwhelming. Bradi Henson, a 23-year-old nursing major, understands the struggle slightly more than the next person.
“I have a friend who goes to school and has 3 kids,” Henson said. “She had a lot of obvious money struggles, and she didn’t really have time for a job because she had to give her children the time they needed outside of school.”
Students who are also parents not only have to learn how to juggle schedules, but learn how to do it well. Kaitlynn Mcwhirter, a 20-year-old communications major, agreed that managing schedules is a difficult thing to do.
“I would say that the biggest struggle is, especially if they have school-aged kids, is like actually getting them off to school, getting them rides, getting them to their extracurricular activities and just balancing their schedule with your schedule,” Mcwhirter said. “You have to manage your kids schedule, your school schedule and your work schedule and my mom balanced it all, and it’s just stressful.”
On the first day of school, most classes generally hand out syllabuses and other worksheets related to the class. What a student may not know is that also on the syllabuses are different benefits or helpful services offered for pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding or people who just need someone to talk to.
Pregnant students can actually contact the Ombudsman office that helps them with any medical issues they are having while taking the classes. If they are just having general issues, they can also talk to the Students Resources Center located in the Student Center building.
Elizabeth Orbits, manager of the Student Resources Center, explained some of the services offered for parents who also attend WCC.
“We’ve developed, in partnership with the Ombudsman office, a lactation room, and we have a process for that. Students can check in (at the Student Resources Center) and get the procedure for that and the location and book a space for themselves,” Orbits said. So, if a student happens to be a mother that is nursing, they also have a lactation room available that is a private and secure place for mothers to nurse their child.
There is also an emergency food pantry at WCC that helps serve students with money issues related to groceries or just in general. The Student Resource Center can also provide a list of local food pantries students can contact.
Some students struggle with housing, whether it’s paying for the housing itself or finding a good place to live in district. The Student Resource Center offers a list of housing containing landlords in Washtenaw County that will take financial aid as the source of income, and they keep a list of community resources that can potentially be helpful to families and to single parents. Bus tokens are also offered to students to get on campus for classes.
WCC also offers help via the Children Center for those who struggle finding a babysitter. It acts as a daycare while parents are attending classes and keeps the child in closer proximity because it is on campus.
At some four-year universities, not as many options are offered to students with families. Community colleges are more helpful in regards to students who attend while actually pregnant. Certain universities do offer housing specifically for people with families, and many offer similar Women’s Centers for people to go to for help.
“We try to showcase our services through orientation, information tables, Welcome Day and word of mouth in the community – we have several community folks that donate to our food pantry, and we just try to let all single parents know that we have childcare options not only on campus but off campus as well,” Orbits said. It is possible to be a parent and a student, especially at WCC.
“I think there are challenges to (being a student and a parent), and it’s certainly more of a burden to carry, and there is going to be lots of things on their plate,” Orbits said. “But I also think the good thing about that is that single parents probably tend to be some of the most organized people, and really they’ve got to be.”