Kent State Offers Support, Resources for Single Parents Navigating College
Being a student and parenting at the same time presents challenges beyond what the average student experiences. Recognizing the struggles that nontraditional students often experience in trying to complete their education, Kent State University’s Center for Adult and Veterans Services steps in to provide much-needed support and offer resources to single parents.
The center enhances the experience of nontraditional students – adult students, parents and veterans – both in and out of the classroom, easing the process of returning to college. Services are tailored to provide a comprehensive and high-impact student experience through support and adherence to the highest standards of federal compliance.
The center offers a program called Literacy and Independence for Family Education (LIFE), which was established as a learning community to support and advocate for single parents as they work toward completing their education. The program, described as a “home away from home” for single parents, supports them by instilling study skills to succeed and providing the help they need to navigate college.
“Single parents are an at-risk population,” says Josh Rider, director of Kent State’s Center for Adult and Veterans Services. “Programs such as LIFE have been proven to lead to the success of single parents, which is what we aim to do.”
Stephanie Newton, Kent State hospitality major with a minor in Pan-African studies, has benefited greatly from the LIFE program. Ms. Newton is a single parent. Although she has four children to look after, LIFE has given her a fresh start in college and the opportunity to provide more for her family in the future.
“During my first semester of sophomore year, I was having issues with resources for class, financial aid and tutoring,” Ms. Newton says. “So I went to my advisor and was able to get connected with the LIFE program, and they’ve been a huge help for me.”
For Ms. Newton, parent and student are just two of her roles; she also works three jobs. She serves as a lead crew member for Kent State’s Dining Services, a student registration assistant for the College of Education, Health and Human Services and a teaching assistant for Techniques of Food Production in Beall Hall. While this is daunting, she does have strong motivation.
“My kids keep me going,” Ms. Newton says. “I’m out here with no family, but it’s the support system from my kids and the LIFE program that helps push me through.”
In addition to informative programs, study sessions and a small scholarship, the Center for Adult and Veterans Services encourages students to attend scheduled study hours both at its office location and at a weekly event called Thursday Night Dinner and Study Hours at the Women’s Center. The study hour session is a collaboration between the Center for Adult and Veterans Services and the Women’s Center. Women’s Center staff members keep the students’ children occupied with games and crafts while their parents use that time to do homework with no distractions.
Dorothy Smith – also known as DJ – is a senior business management major with a 15-year-old son, and she absolutely loves the idea of Thursday Night Study Hours.
“An hour and a half doesn’t seem like much,” Ms. Smith says. “But, being able to focus on your homework with no kids is a lot and incredible of them to do that.”
What makes the program successful is the commitment of hours that its staff puts in to help as many students as they can.
“The LIFE program forms communities and provides skills, health and wellness, and supports academic learning,” Mr. Rider says.
The Center for Adult and Veterans Services works with various types of nontraditional students and any single parent who wishes to take classes but does not have access to the resources needed to do so.
“It’s distinctively Kent State,” Mr. Rider says. “Our work is different every day, and it’s very rewarding when we grow closer to these students and see them overcome challenges.”
This past June, the center hosted a LIFE reunion that will continue its mission with program alumni and former members, providing a time to reconnect with each other and Kent State.
The LIFE program was founded by Rachel Anderson, Ph.D., former director of the Center for Adult and Veterans Services, and Eboni Pringle, Ph.D., dean of University College.