Students spend the day with their children on campus and will bring them again on Monday for Students With Children Awareness Day.
Julie Medero juggles two kids, a 14-month-old and a 4-year-old, and a job. She’s also pursuing a doctorate in electrical engineering as an Academic Student Employee (ASE).
“It’s really hard to be a mom with a baby and go to school when there’s nothing you can do with them,” Medero said about trying to find a place for her children to stay while she’s in class.
Medero started at the UW when her oldest child was 2 years old. Winter quarter of last year, she had a second child but, as an ASE, was only given seven days off for maternity leave.
“My adviser was really understanding,” said Medero, whose adviser allowed her to work from home. “Without her being very understanding, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Medero is involved with the efforts of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) student-parent task force, which has been meeting since January to discuss solutions for difficulties student-parents face.
One of the task force’s biggest projects this year has been planning Students with Children Awareness Day, set for Monday, May 9. The student-parent task force is encouraging all student-parents to bring their children to campus, and the day will involve a rally at noon on Red Square.
Shiboney Dumo, former president of the Student Parent Organization, is hoping that other students will support their cause as student-parents.
“We’re hoping for positive effects,” Dumo said. “Something negative that I see happening is that, because [student-parents are] still a minority, the majority of people who don’t have kids may see it as, ‘I don’t want my tuition to go to that because I’m not a student parent.’”
Ben Henry, vice president of GPSS, said the day is meant to bring attention to the number of student-parents at the UW.
“A lot of students don’t realize how many student-parents there are,” Henry said. “We’re hoping to change the culture on campus and make it more family friendly. We’re asking students to bring their children to school on Monday, but we don’t know how many people will be able to do that because it’s really difficult to bring kids on campus.”
Henry said there are no playgrounds to bring his 2-year-old son to on campus or places his son can stay while he studies. He said he hopes Students with Children Awareness Day will raise awareness about the few resources student-parents have.
One of those resources, the Student Parent Resource Center, is funded entirely by the Services and Activities Fee (SAF), a $117 quarterly fee paid by students, and is requesting an additional $279,504 in funding this year. The center received a budget of $1,000,419 for the 2010-11 school year and is looking for an annual budget of $1,279,923.
Diana Herrmann, the Student Parent Resource Center coordinator, said that the increase in the center’s request is meant to cover an increase in child-care center costs in the region so that the center can provide its child-care assistance program, which gives child-care center vouchers to student-parents, to the same amount of students next year.
“The increased amount that we are requesting is an increase in the grants and subsidies for students,” Hermann said. “The requested increased amount is to keep up with the 9 percent increase of child-care costs in this region over the past two years and to take into account the expected 1.4 percent inflation.”
According to the Student Parent Resource Center’s SAF budget proposal for the 2011-12 year, approximately 1,244 students have used the services provided by the Student Parent Resource Center this year. Currently, the students who are eligible to receive funding from the child-care assistance program have 423 children who need child care. Of these 423 children, 32 have space in the UW’s child-care centers.
Dumo said it’s difficult for student-parents to get their children into the four child-care centers that surround the UW: West Campus, Radford Court, Blakely Village and Laurel Village.
“I’m on a waiting list for three child-care centers,” Dumo said. “My daughter is 2. Every year they call and ask, ‘Do you still want to be on our waiting list?’ I say, ‘Yeah, can I?’ Maybe until she’s 5.”
Rose Stevens, a junior in the business school with three kids, is concerned about the lack of resources for student-parents.
“It makes me reconsider why I chose the UW,” Stevens said. “It was definitely for the prestige, and I wanted to go the best place I could, but now I see that they don’t accommodate everything. … It feels like we’re numbers and expected to be like everybody else when we’re not. I don’t know anybody at the business school who is preparing five breakfasts and five lunches for the day before they leave, or getting three kids ready and dropping them off at three different locations before getting to campus.”
Dumo said that she thinks there’s a perception among student-parents that they are alone.
“There is a feeling of isolation — like you’re the only one here,” she said. “You look around at everyone else and think, ‘They have no worries,’ while you’re thinking about your kids.”
Dumo would like to see more places where students can bring their children on campus.
“We have the IMA, but the IMA isn’t available for kids under 16,” Dumo said. “We’d like to go in there and play in the pool with our kids, but we can’t. We pay for it, but we can’t use it.”
Henry said he is working on a census of student-parents at the UW because right now there is no way of telling how many student-parents there are.
Sarah Reyneveld, president of GPSS, said that GPSS is advocating for three things: financial assistance for child care, increased access to child care centers and a more family friendly environment on campus.
“There needs to be more events and more services for student-parents to make them feel more integrated into the community,” Reyneveld said. “Child care, right now, is the third largest barrier to degree completion, and we want to get them to pursue their degrees and graduate on time. Right now there aren’t enough services to help them.”
Reach reporter Sarah Schweppe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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