Making the decision to further your education is one of the most important decisions in life. For students who have children, making the decision can be tougher, because they have to try and balance school work with being a parent.
The Student Parents’ Program is a support group that allows students to connect with other students who have children.
The group has weekly sessions that include workshops on parent education, financial planning, taxation, budgeting, study skills, stress management, nutrition and women’s health. They also take part in outdoor activities, arts and crafts, yoga and aerobics classes.
Robyn Rushford, a counsellor at Kwantlen, tries to schedule the group meeting around the students’ class times, to make sure as many students as possible can attend. Currently, she offers support to 15 students, and approximately 6-8 attend the weekly group meetings.
“I hope that this program increases a sense of belonging for the students, because when you do have kids you don’t have as much freedom and flexibility to participate in the school community,” said Rushford.
A former student parent, Rushford understands the challenges students face with finances and balancing class times around daycare.
Student who are parents can receive a $75-a-month per child bursary, with a maximum of $500 per semester. This bursary is offered to the students in fall and spring semesters; the only criteria is that they have to participate in the weekly group meetings.
“It’s a way of supporting the group and supporting the students who make that commitment to the group,” said Rushford.
Through the Kwantlen Foundation, funds are raised for the group which can be used to buy bus tickets from the KSA for students who can’t afford transportation to and from school. For a few years, the students in the program have also been doing fund-raising, usually by having a school bake sale, to support a family in need for Christmas.
“My group really believe in helping those who are in need,” said Rushford.
The Student Parents’ Program has been in existence at the Richmond Campus since 2000. Later this year, the Surrey campus will offer the program as well.
“Some students, in the entire time they are at Kwantlen, will participate in the program,” said Rushford.
One of those students is Jodi Macdonald, a single mother of two, in the last semester of her psychology degree.
“As long as I’ve been at Kwantlen, I’ve been going to the support group,” said Macdonald.
One of the struggles she is facing now is that her son has been ill and she has a hard time making it to classes because her daycare centre won’t take him when he’s sick.
“I’m a single parent and it’s hard to find someone to look after my kids on weekends or in the evenings, but if I do find someone, it’s an issue that my kids are not be seeing me enough during the day. I’m their only parent and it’s not fair to them if I’m never home,” said Macdonald.
Even when she took a break from school to have her baby, Macdonald still attended the group, because she liked the support she received.
“The group gets you out of the house. Usually, when people have a baby, it can get quite isolating if you don’t go out and be with people. It’s nice to talk to other moms because they understand exactly what you’re going through,” said Macdonald.