Student parents find means to succeed

The life of a student-parent can be difficult. Trying to balance school, kids, work and, in some cases, a social life can become an overwhelming task.

Rachel King, 21, a junior nursing student from Jacksonville, struggled with being a mother, student, volunteer and factory worker.

“Time is the biggest factor for me,” King said. “I never feel like I have enough time to be an employee, student and parent.”

King is an unwed mother raising a 1-year-old son, Jaylon, with assistance from her boyfriend David Knight, 24, a graduate student at Florida State University. She works at a factory overnight to pay her bills.

King also volunteers with Mothers-in-Crisis, which is a non-profit networking organization composed of women and men in recovery from alcohol and drug addictions.

“I always get involved in activities around campus, and I can never do less than the best at any of it,” King said. “It is difficult for me to say no. I have learned that I need to set limits and learn to prioritize my tasks.”

According to national statistics produced by the National Center for Education, 13.3 percent of students are single parents. For whites, the figure is 10.5 percent; for Latinos, 17.3 percent; for Asians, 10.2 percent and for American Indian/Alaska Natives, 20.4 percent. For black students, the figure is 28.8 percent.

Precious McDonald, 20, a sophomore business administration student from Detroit is a single mother with a 2-year-old son, Christopher, and a 6-month-old son, Adrian.

“The biggest struggle for me is learning to balance being a single young woman, parent and student,” McDonald said.

McDonald gave birth to Christopher shortly after graduating from high school. She decided to attend college with hopes of living a better lifestyle.

“I want my kids to have a better life than I had growing up,” McDonald said.

McDonald said she wanted to prove to her friends and family she could be both a parent and a successful student.

McDonald explained that her children keep her motivated to succeed. “(My children) depend on me.”

Most of McDonald’s support comes from a close aunt. When her parents first found out she was pregnant, they kicked her out of the house and stopped supporting her financially.

McDonald’s aunt told her about the National Organization for Single Mothers where she could receive help and advice to successfully raise a 2-year-old and 6-month-old.

“NOSM provided me with a way of linking up with other single mothers for mutual support and advice,” McDonald said.

Much like King and McDonald, Shanteria Timms, 21, an elementary education junior from Fort Lauderdale, knows the hardships of being a student parent.

“All of my spare time is devoted to Angel,” Timms said of her 3-year-old daughter. “There is none left for me.”

“From the time that I get up in the morning to the time that I go to sleep at night, my time is focused on how I am going to take care of her. She is my life,” Timms continued.

But females are not the only single parents in school.

Christopher Jackson, 22, is a senior business administration student from Orlando, and a single father raising his 4-year-old son, Christopher Jr.

Jackson explained how he handles playing the role of a student and single parent.

“I would tell (single parents) that it is so important to get on campus and get involved,” Jackson said.

“So many people on campus will look out for you and will be there to help you along. Take advantage of that.”

For students who are parents or expectant parents, Planned Parenthood offers assistance in finding day care and parenting classes.

Planned Parenthood offers discounts on minimal medical care for students in addition to education about women’s health.