GV offers resources to students who are parents, pregnant

Rachel Cross

When alumna Ashley Wallace found out she was pregnant during her senior year at Grand Valley State University, she was taking 21 credits – that’s six more than required to be considered a full-time student.

“The biggest challenge with being pregnant while also a college student was being tired all the time,” Wallace said. “Trying to keep up with my heavy course load so I could stay on track for graduation in the spring was really hard.”

She graduated with a degree in music in April of 2010, and a couple months later she had her son. Wallace said her family and husband were very supportive during the pregnancy process, but she still relied on campus services to help.

“A service that I did utilize when I was pregnant was the Counseling Center on campus,” Wallace said. “I spoke with a counselor a few times when I was feeling nervous about finishing school.”

As of fall 2012, GVSU is host to more than 900 students who are either pregnant or parents. The university offers an array of services that help them better cope and balance their lives with their new responsibilities.

Sharalle Arnold, office coordinator of the Children’s Enrichment Center, said the center provides on-campus childcare for students who have children ages two-and-a-half and older, and that if they are unable to enroll a child because of their age, the center offers consultations to help them secure and serve infants.

Arnold added that the center maintains a steady enrollment and offers programming efforts to students regardless of if they are directly using the services or not. Some of these programs include the development of a Facebook group page where college parents can share information with each other, as well as a financial aid women’s caring program that helps make sure student parents receive different benefits, like child commitment scholarships and nontraditional student scholarships that are housed out of the Women’s Center.

“Even if a student parent doesn’t use our resources, we still try to connect those dots on how we can help them,” Arnold said. “Student parents or pregnant parents can still come by and discuss childcare options that are outside of GVSU, as well as negotiating rates that are feasible and talking to a student about what to expect as they begin their collegiate journey as a parent.”

The center also helps families complete forms, negotiate paperwork and navigate through the process to receive subsidies from the Department of Human Services. There is a committee on campus designed to look at the needs of non-traditional students, specifically college students who are also parents.

Arnold said the no. 1 obstacle to college students who are pregnant or are raising children is access to affordable quality care.

“Having a childcare center on campus is critical,” Arnold said. “Unmet financial barriers, such as choosing between a child’s care and tuition as well as affordable family housing, are some of the barriers that we try to remove. When we remove these barriers, the more likely it is to see that college student’s success persists.”

The Women’s Center also offers helpful resources to students who are pregnant or are parents.

Derrhonda Scott-Jones, office coordinator of the Women’s Center, said the center keeps a list of resources to assist students in finding extra help, like the Pregnancy Resource Center and Planned Parenthood.

“If a student wants to come in and talk, the staff is more than happy to listen,” Scott-Jones said. “We work closely with the Counseling Center, we can walk the student into the center to see if we can let them in to talk to a counselor.”

In addition, Scott-Jones said the Women’s Center can also refer students to the Housing Department to see what options are available for students, or to refer them to other housing services in the area that are student-parent friendly.

The center also offers different programs that are student-parent geared. Scott-Jones said on Sep. 25, the Women’s Center had a program focused on childcare and in November, there will be a program about college moms and life balance.

“We try to have programs of different topics of interest for student parents,” Scott-Jones said.

For more information on the services that are available for students who are pregnant or already parents at GVSU, call the Women’s Center at 331-2748 or the Children’s Enrichment Center at (616) 895-7146.

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