Claflin, Clarion, & Christian schools support pregnant students

Claflin changes its tune

Last week, Kamaria Downs headlined in local and national news for her efforts to confront discriminatory pregnancy and parenting policies at her Christian university. When Kamaria became pregnant at Claflin University (a private South Carolina university affiliated with the United Methodist Church), Kamaria was forced out of her pre-paid campus housing. She did not receive a refund and ended up living with a professor.

Claflin University had received exemptions from parts of the federal law (Title IX) which protects pregnant and parenting students from discriminatory policies and procedures. Prior to Fall 2016, pregnant students were not allowed to stay in campus housing after the first trimester, and they were required to provide medical documentation (not required of other students).

Kamaria shared with NBC News, “I had to conceal my pregnancy from everyone and the university made me feel ashamed to be pregnant. I had to stand up. It wasn’t right.” With the help of a legal non-profit, Public Justice, Kamaria confronted her university. Thanks to Kamaria’s courageous stand, the university decided to change its pregnancy and parenting policies. The university issued a statement clarifying the change:

“Claflin’s new Title IX policy ensures support for pregnant and parenting students; addresses academic and extracurricular accommodations; and provides details regarding the availability of campus residential facilities.  The policy previously listed in the 2015-2016 Residential Life Handbook has been rescinded.”

Christian universities and Title IX

This isn’t the first instance of pregnancy discrimination on a school campus, and frankly, it won’t be the last. The Pregnant on Campus Initiative has worked with and heard from students across the country who have experienced (or witnessed) pregnancy and parenting discrimination at their Christian universities.

Unplanned pregnancy happens to all types of students (and employees), and unfortunately, many Christian students feel isolated and ashamed when they become pregnant outside of wedlock. The social stigma and pressures of the Christian community lead some to seek abortion, while others feel forced to leave their Christian school. When Christian universities allow for discriminatory pregnancy policies and practices, they potentially put their students at greater risk for moral sin or abandonment of faith. (In fact, about 54% of abortions are obtained by self-identifying Christian women.)

However, there is often disagreement on Christian campuses as to how to best respond to the needs of pregnant students while also respecting Biblical traditions and enforcing moral student conduct. In light of this, dozens of Christian universities have applied for and received Title IX waivers from pregnancy and parenting related issues that in turn dramatically impact pregnant and parenting students (and employees).

We understand that these are challenging issues to respond to and that there are sincere concerns about condoning premarital sexual activity on a Christian campus. Nevertheless, we believe that Christian schools must compassionately address these situations without isolating, abandoning, or shaming pregnant students.

Making a change

Good news! Claflin University is not the only Christian school speaking out in support of pregnant and parenting students. Colleges like the College of Saint Mary (NE), St. Catherine University (MN), Belmont Abbey College (NC), and Misericordia University have established housing and parenting programs for pregnant and parenting students. Meanwhile, St. Louis University and the University of Notre Dame have comprehensive resource databases, staff support, and other key parenting and educational support resources to assist pregnant and parenting students.

More recently, Clarion University is one such Christian university stepping up to make a change. Student leader, Kara Sorenson, learned about Feminists for Life’s efforts in pregnancy and parenting support after hearing Serrin Foster’s presentation “The Feminist Case Against Abortion.” After the presentation, Foster challenged Clarion students to identify resources such as childcare, housing, maternity coverage, and transportation. During this Q&A session, it became clear that many students were unaware of resources and felt that Clarion students would have limited options in cases of unplanned pregnancy and parenthood. Concerned, Kara made it her mission to identify more resources and to learn what could be done to improve Clarion’s pregnancy and parenting support. In her efforts, Kara learned that the university had previously offered a daycare center and a place for mothers to change diapers and breast-feed. However, many resources had been removed due to budget cuts, renovations, and administrative turnovers.

Inspired and motivated, Kara invited Serrin Foster to facilitate a pregnancy resources forum with Clarion administrators and community members. In May 2016, Foster returned to campus to moderate a FFL Pregnancy Resource Forum, which brought together a panel of 12 Clarion University administrators and four community leaders. The result was Clarion’s new “Pregnancy and Parenting Resources Initiative.”

Clarion’s new Initiative

Clarion’s new initiative provides a clear plan and vision for addressing the needs of pregnant and parenting students through a comprehensive network of support. Clarion’s Pregnancy and Parenting Resources Initiative states:

“Pregnancy and Parenting Resources Initiative is an interoffice collaboration that attempts to serve the special needs of pregnant and parenting students. Substantial national evidence demonstrates that students who become parents during their college studies have a very high dropout rate.  PPRI believes students should not have to choose between being parents and completing their education. PPRI has sponsored Pregnancy Resources Forums conducted by Feminists for Life, Inc. to address the specific needs of pregnant and parenting students.”

The university’s goals include:

  • To support pregnant and parenting students at Clarion as they strive to attain a college education;
  • To advocate for these students in the areas of advising, housing, childcare, healthcare, resource identification, and financial aid;
  • To organize social and professional networking opportunities.

According to Sorenson, new resources for Fall 2016 will include:

  • A map of where parents can find ramps for strollers and bathrooms that have diaper decks
  • A student parent group on campus through the Pregnancy and Parenting Resources Initiative
  • An annual Christmas party for parents and their children (hosted by a student group)

Be a part of this movement

We hope that these schools continue to develop such programs and lead the way for other Christian universities to take note and take a stand. If your Christian school wants to join these schools in better supporting pregnant and parenting students, please contact us! Email Beth Rahal (Pregnant on Campus Director) at brahal@studentsforlife.org for support.

Claire: One Year Later

Anja and ClaireA year ago, Claire Crawford was experiencing one of the scariest, most challenging moments of her life. She was a pregnant student not sure of what to do or where to get help. At 5 months pregnant, she had lost her 2 jobs and dropped out of college. At 7 months, she left a bad relationship. Claire had no idea what she was going to do to take care of her baby boy. Thankfully, Claire had the help of her local Students for Life group and was able to find the peer support, baby supplies, and local resources that she needed to choose life for baby Taylan and to build a new future for her family. Claire’s courage to reach out for help changed her life– and now she’s returning the favor.

Since her pregnancy, Claire has transformed her life. The once scared, pregnant teen is now a strong, empowered advocate for women in her community. While being a student of Holmes Community College and parenting her son Taylan, Claire is constantly helping women in her college community. Many of the women she meets are going through similar experiences. Claire understands the place they are in, and she advocates for them in every way that she can.

An Advocate for Women

This past year, she has worked with Mississippi State University Students for Life to speak to their group about her testimony of rejecting abortion. Her experience has allowed her to be a safe and trusted confidant for women. Women (who have previously chosen abortion) feel comfortable coming to her when they become pregnant again and need support. After sharing their stories, several of these women have offered to help other women choose life.

Since becoming an advocate, Claire has provided resources and supplies (collected by MSU Students for Life) to nearly 20 pregnant and parenting women! Claire has worked with MSU Students for Life, her local Pregnancy Resource Center, and local pro-life advocates to get these women everything they need: supplies, parenting classes, information, adoption resources and emotional support. Many of these women have also become advocates, and they have joined these efforts by donating their own used baby items.

Lives Saved

Claire is not only changing lives; she’s saving them! Three mothers chose life because of Claire’s compassionate efforts to support and help them.

  • “Mother A” was pregnant and unsure of who to turn to for support. Claire directed her to the pregnancy resource center that she (Claire) first got help from as a pregnant 17-year-old. Together, Claire and the center’s staff gave this mother the encouragement that she needed to choose life for her baby girl. She is now working, and she loves being a mother!
  • “Mother B” needed not only support to choose life, but also a place to live after her parents threatened to kick her out if she did not choose abortion. With the help of Claire, the local pro-life community, and MSU Students for Life friends, this mother had a place to live, missed her abortion consultation, and instead received care at a pregnancy resource center. This mother shared that she loves her tiny baby before he or she is even here.
  • “Mother C” was already a teen mother and post-abortive. She was at very high risk of choosing abortion. Claire was able to pass along MSU Students for Life resources and supplies that made her feel empowered to choose life for her baby boy.

Claire- 4One Little Post

The stories of women helped by this one mother could go on and on. And yet, all this began with one seemingly insignificant post on a pro-life student’s social media page. One simple post snowballed into dozens of lives changed and at least 4 babies saved (including little Taylan).

This story goes to show that even when you aren’t seeing the fruits of your efforts, your Pregnant on Campus outreach may still be impacting dozens of lives around you.

We are so proud of Claire for her courage in choosing life for Taylan and for her compassion to speak out and support other women. So many lives are being impacted by this one woman, and we know that this is only the beginning.

 

Content and images for this post were contributed by Claire Crawford (parenting student) and Anja Scheib (pro-life student leader). If you have a story to share, please contact Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org

Mississippi student moms share their stories

Shurnita

Every year, we receive stories from all over the country of parenting students and their incredible successes on campus. These young moms and dads work hard to care for their children and achieve their degrees. We are proud to share with you these parenting student success stories provided by Students for Life student group leaders in Mississippi.

Shurnita: “My life has a purpose.”

This school year, Shurnita, a junior in Wildlife at Mississippi State University became unexpectedly pregnant. Her on-campus counselor let her know that there is a group on campus that has a program called the Pregnant on Campus Initiative. She contacted MSU Students for Life for help continuing her education while pregnant. Although being pregnant and taking challenging classes proved to be an intense balance, Shurnita had a community of students at her school willing to find baby items, job listings, and classes for new moms. As she prepared for her baby boy in the spring semester, she had a team of friends making sure that she had everything that she needed to succeed as a mother and a student. Not only did she survive pregnancy on campus– she thrived. Shurnita achieved the best grades that she has had in her entire college career.

Shurnita and Adrean

She attributes her academic success to two things: “I have to succeed in order for my son to have everything he needs. Being pregnant helped me realize that my life has a purpose and someone needs me and will always love me. That helps me continue to strive for success.”

Shurnita also shared: “Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus helped me realize that I’m not alone and that someone will always be there if I need help. They helped me prepare for my son.”

Adrean was born this May to a loving mother and a supportive Students for Life family. Shurnita will return to school as a senior in the fall.

 

Jalissa: “I’m proud of my decision.”

Jalissa

Jalissa, a senior at Mississippi State University studying Psychology, found herself in a difficult spot. She was a mom to a brand new baby girl and was a full time student. Her on-campus advisor referred her to Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative. She soon realized that she had a group of peers more than willing to help her find resources, job listings, babysitting, daycare information, and emotional support. Jalissa described the support she has received: “[Pregnant on Campus] has provided resources for me that I absolutely didn’t know existed. The group also goes a little further than expected to help and that is amazing!”

Jalissa and Baby

Hannah Loper (the President of the Students for Life group at Jalissa’s school) described working together with student mothers: “I’ve loved working with our student moms! It’s opened my eyes to struggles that I never would have thought about when I had not met them. These moms have given us a chance to walk the walk and show that we want to see them and their babies do life well. That experience means the world to me!”

Jalissa is expected to graduate this December and to pursue a career in counseling. Her daughter, Jordyn, continues to bless her. Jalissa wants to share with the world, “I’m proud of my decision to stay in school while being a mom!”

“I’m a mom, and I stay up all night and still go to class and graduate in December!”

Amber: “It’s empowering.”

Amber, a sophomore in Anthropology at Mississippi State University, became unexpectedly pregnant during the school year. Her church referred her to her campus’ Students for Life Pregnant on Campus Initiative for the aid that she needed. Since coming to SFL’s events, she has experienced an outpouring of support from the community of peers and individuals who want to see her succeed as a mom and as a student.

Vice President of the group, Maggie Thomas, describes her own involvement this way: “Getting the opportunity to work with student parents made me realize how strong these parents are. They work so hard to make sure that they and their children have the best future possible. It’s inspiring to see them balance so many roles and be successful. They are not only role models for their children, but for me and those that get to work with them.”

Amber and Riley

Amber described the empowerment she felt since being supported by the group. “Before, I walked around campus so embarrassed because I’m not married and I’m young. I didn’t know how many women on campus were in my position, and it’s empowering to have a group of women beside you through it. It’s like a little community. It’s great, and everyone is so helpful. If I needed something for my son, I could just ask!” Amber attended her campus baby shower hosted by MSU Students for Life and received several items from members of the community that SFL was happy to deliver to her. By the time her son was born, she had everything ready for him!

Amber also has a passion for other young pregnant and parenting students, and she is always eager to help. Her son Riley was born in May, and she shared that she loves “talking to him about everything!” She hopes to pursue a career in Biblical Archaeology after graduation. She shared, “We are determined to graduate so our children will have the best lives possible!”

 

Aysia: Determined to succeed

Aysia and group

Aysia, a senior in Biomedical Engineering at Mississippi State University, discovered that she was pregnant before returning to school in the fall. She remained determined to carry her baby and return to school. She saw the Students for Life table at her school’s Club Fair on the first week of school. It was her first week as a pregnant student right when she saw the sign-up sheet. Aysia attended the Interest Meeting and decided to become a member as a pregnant, pro-life student.Throughout her pregnancy, her school’s Students for Life came together to throw her a baby shower, refer parent classes, babysit, and build lasting relationships. Aysia attended almost every Students for Life event during her pregnancy, worked night shifts on campus, and walked from her apartment to class every day.Fearlessly, she even joined her school’s archery team.According to former President of MSU SFL, “She never complained. She only insisted on persisting.”  

Aysia

Unexpectedly, Aysia needed to give birth a month early right in the midst of finals week. Rushing to her unplanned doctor and hospital, she prepared herself for a premature birth. Her boyfriend, Roderick, immediately came to be with her through delivery. Friends she made at Students for Life were able to visit the hospital to give her things her and her baby needed.

Her baby girl, Evalyn, is a gift to the whole MSU Students for Life team. Mama, baby, and dad are often at Students for Life events on campus and have a made a habit of always giving as much as they receive. Aysia plans to be an optometrist after graduation.

“I’m continuing my education and caring for a four-month-old.”

 

 

Thank you to student leader Anja Scheib for collecting these powerful stories! All images and quotes were provided at the consent of the named parenting students. If you have a story to share, contact Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org

7 Self-Care Tips for New Mamas

Baby Thaddeus RahalAs a new mama, you may feel the need to become a martyr to the cause of Motherhood– running ragged from no sleep, skipping showers for days on end, and jumping to attention at every baby sigh and cry. Yes, your baby needs constant care and attention, but so do you! Your physical and emotional health matter, and if you start neglecting your personal needs, you will see that lack of self-care unleasantly manifest in other parts of your life. Take care of yourself. You matter. 

(Not a new mama? Share these tips with a mom-to-be!)

#1: Sleep

You need your Zzz’s. Take them while you can! A quick cat nap here and there while baby is sleeping will do wonders. You’re probably going to be up every 1-3 hours during the night; so take advantage of the daytime naps when possible. (And student mamas, remember that Title IX allows for excused absences when recovering from childbirth.)

#2: Shower

No, I’m not kidding. Shower. I’ve heard this over and over again from new and veteran moms who lament that they are regularly skipping out on that sprinkle of bliss and solitude. Ladies, take back your shower time! If you have a newborn, that baby is going to be napping regularly throughout the day. Put her in a safe sleeping spot like her bassinet or crib, and take 5-15 minutes to refresh. If you have a baby monitor, bring it in the bathroom and turn up the volume, or simply set a timer on your phone to make sure that you are in and out in a reasonable time. If you feel nervous about leaving your baby out-of-sight, place her in a secure carseat, bassinet, or bouncer in the bathroom. It’s okay if she wakes up and cries. She’s within sight, and you will be with her in a moment.

#3: Get out

Whether it’s a quick trip to grab a coffee or a light stroll around campus, get out of your dorm or apartment. Fresh air and the company of others will do wonders. Beth and Baby in CarrierText a friend to meet up for a cup of coffee or some other sweet treat. You may have only 20-30 minutes, but it will be a nice break seeing another adult. It may feel overwhelming at first, but you will get the hang of it. Pack up that sweet baby, and go!

#4: Treat yourself

The first few weeks and months of that post-baby body are awkward and sometimes discouraging. It took 9 months for that baby to stretch you out; so it’s going to take some time to adjust. In the meantime, it can help to treat yourself to a little beauty pick-me-up. Take 5-10 minutes to put on fresh make-up. (You are gorgeous, Mama!) Go out and buy a couple new outfits that you feel beautiful and confident in. Ask your partner or family member to watch the baby to go get a hair cut.

#5: Let others help you

You do not have to be supermom. You just have to be mom. Loving, caring mom. No superpowers required. If your friends or family offer to bring food, accept it. If they offer to hold that delightfully screaming baby, let them. If they say “Go out I can watch the baby.”– go. You are allowed a break. You don’t have to do this alone. (Hint: If you have a Students for Life group on campus, they may be available to babysit for free.)

#6: Make the time

So you may be looking at #1-5 and thinking “Yup. Nope. Not happening!” And I don’t blame you. Sleeping?!!? Showering!?! GOING OUT!?! It sounds too good to be true! Now, hold your eye roll for a moment, and let me tell you this– It is possible. (*gasp*) Like most things, it’s all about prioritizing your time and embracing realistic expectations and outcomes. You can shower. You can put on make up. You can go out for a quick treat or even a whole meal if you make the time and commit to doing it. Baby may cry. Maybe she’ll poop all over that cute tutu. Maybe you’ll end up sitting in your car in a parking lot hugging your fresh cup of coffee while baby sleeps in the backseat. Allow yourself the time to do the little things that make you feel like “you” again.

#7: Trust your instincts

Beth Rahal and Teddy- TBTBy now, you’ve probably witnessed or experienced the ever dreaded “mommy wars.” These battles of petty and sometimes downright mean comments about others’ parenting decisions can be a real killjoy! It’s funny how everyone seems to ha
ve something to say– even the non-parents! Trust yourself. Don’t become consumed and worried over others’ criticism. You know what is right for you and your baby, and you (more than anyone) will be able to pick up on your baby’s signs and needs. If you’re not sure or doubting yourself, ask your doctor or pediatrician, your mom, or even another mom for advice. Go online or pick up a parenting book. Pause. Take a deep breath. You’ll do fine.

 

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. The images used in this post are the property of Beth Rahal. If you would like to contribute to the Pregnant on Campus website blog, email Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org

 

 

 

Creative ways to address pregnant & parenting students’ needs

Meeting the needs of pregnant and parenting sometimes leads us to unexpected projects! Often student leaders discover needs that go beyond what they may have expected or discover a niche that simply isn’t addressed by campus or local resources.

First we plan…

When considering new projects, here are some ways to approach your brainstorming:

  • Ask students what they need. This may sound silly, but sometimes we jump into action without pausing to consider what is actually needed on campus. Ask around. If you have a pregnant friend or know a parenting student or professor, ask them what they would find helpful.
  • Survey your campus: Take time to survey the resources that are currently available on campus and in the community. Once you know what is available, you can plan on what to better advertise and determine what is missing. Use our Resource Survey or Checklist (found here) to guide your group’s research.
  • Review your group efforts: Review current and past Pregnant on Campus projects and goals. Were there any projects that you proposed but never got to? Did you discuss some campus problems but never came up with a plan to fix them? What worked? What didn’t work? Sometimes the perfect project is right there– waiting to be rediscovered.

Then we get creative!

No matter the size or expenses of your project, there are plenty of ways to make your effort stand out and to helpfully impact your campus. Here are some creative projects to inspire your efforts:

  • Transportation solutions: Many parenting students have to commute to campus due to off-campus housing situations. They also have other additional transportation demands, like driving their kids to child care and appointments. The student group at Portland Community College responded to this issue by partnering with a local car shop to provide free oil changes, filters and gaskets, and safety checks. Your group may also consider offering transportation services, like driving students to doctor’s appointments or to the local pregnancy resource center. If your school is in the city, fundraise for Metro Cards!
  • Advertise big: Students often don’t look for pregnancy and parenting resources on campus until they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. Like the the University of Michigan Students for Life have designed and printed huge ads on campus, and they have even sponsored local bus ads. Other universities, like Georgetown, post pregnancy support services stickers in the bathroom stalls around campus.
  • Fundraiser fun: Scholarships are a huge help– even as little as $500 can go a long way. The fun part? Coming up with clever ways to raise the money! We’ve seen groups do crazy, awesome stuff, like inviting in a local petting zoo to campus, hosting a masquerade ball, and organizing a 5k run or  fun glow run. OR if you’re really up for a little bit of crazy, how about “Pie a Pro-Lifer”? Go out of your comfort zone– and bring in the $$$.
  • Collecting the BIG items: New mamas have so much to prepare for, and a baby comes with a surprising amount of gear. Get your group together to fundraise for big items (like a car seat, Pack n’ Play, or bouncer), or ask local organizations to pitch in and donate. If you have a local baby supplies manufacturer or store, ask if they’d be willing to donate these items.
  • Beneficial partnerships: SLU Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance Committee partnered with the university bookstore to offer a book borrowing program for pregnant and parenting students. Other groups have partnered with Residence Life and even Greek organizations on campus to team up on events and projects.
  • Show your support: Sometimes, all a girl needs is some encouragement and support. Easy, fun ways to do this include: passing out flowers with pregnancy support information, going around campus with “I Support” photo frames, or organizing a quick and easy poster demonstration.

Seek advice and support

Newbies and veterans alike should ask for advice and support. Whether you need a fresh pair of eyes to review your campus proposal or a brainstorming partner, you can call on your SFLA Regional Coordinator for help! Your Coordinator might also connect you with other campus groups around the country who have done similar projects so that you can learn from their experiences.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant On Campus Coordinator. For help and support with your projects, contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator or Beth, brahal@studentsforlife.org

Nausea, fatigue, pregnancy struggles: We have tips for you!

PregnMorning Sicknessancy is tough on the body, and some days, it feels so much easier to stay in bed than to force yourself up for class. But girl, you can do this. These classes are one step closer to your degree, and your hard work will be worth it!

Now, today may be tough, but you can plan and prepare to make tomorrow better. Check out these tips and try a few! You got this.

Treat your body well

Morning sickness (or all day nausea!) can be incredibly frustrating and interfere with your efforts to get to class, focus on your assignments, or simply keep any food down. If you are really struggling, you can talk to your doctor about ways to manage the symptoms. In the meantime, you can take measures to treat your body well and reduce some of your pregnancy symptoms and reactions. Here are a few ideas:

  • Eat often and eat well: Pack your purse or bag with quick snacks (e.g. crackers, trail mix, granola bars) to snack on during the day. Even more importantly, get in good, nutritional meals. You may choose to switch to 5 smaller meals rather than the standard breakfast-lunch-dinner trio.
  • Night-time snacks: Keep some light snacks (e.g. crackers or trail mix) next to your bed. If you wake up hungry, grab a quick snack instead of stumbling to the fridge to binge on Ben & Jerry’s! A snack first thing in the morning may also help relieve your morning sickness– or it will at least get something in your belly (post-gross-morning-toilet-hugging) that won’t return to haunt you later.
  • Hydrate all day, every day: Pack water bottles (or even your favorite sports drink) in your purse or school bag to drink throughout the day. This will keep you well hydrated and hopefully relieve some nausea and dizziness. Refill and restock after classes so that you are ready for the next day.
  • Sweet treats: Your classmates may not realize just how bad they smell post-workout or be conscious of the potency of their lunch. A fresh peppermint, piece of gum, or sucker candy can help distract you from the smells and avoid a dramatic sprint to the nearest bin.

Schedule your time well

The first trimester- and even the second trimester- can be especially tough on mamas. Most women feel fatigued in the first trimester, and many will experience nausea, heightened sense of smell, frequent urination, breathlessness, and all that other good stuff. (So much fun, right?!) While good nutrition, sleep, and hydration may help with some of these issues, you can also schedule your time to make the days and tasks more manageable:

  • Opt for flexible class options:  If available, schedule online classes and even night classes to help spread out your classes to accommodate for more naps, snack breaks, etc. Talk to the school registrar or professor(s) about transferring to another class option (e.g. online or another time) if your semester is already underway.
  • Buffer room: Make sure that you give yourself a good amount of time before class (or work) to deal with the inevitable pregnancy dilemmas (e.g. morning sickness). A little extra morning time will allow you that extra 30 minutes or even an hour to start the day off better. Get up slowly, eat, and let the nausea subside a little before rushing off to your first class. Set several alarms if you need to!
  • Pomodoro Technique: For class assignments, try the Pomodoro Technique. This method utilizes bursts of productivity and quick breaks to stay focused. It’s perfect for a tired mama who needs extra snacks and bathroom breaks! First, take 10-15 minutes to plan what steps you need to take to get your assignment done. (Example: For a paper, you might need to do an outline, research, write, create a bibliography, and review.) Break it down. Schedule time blocks of 20-25 minutes of totally focused work– knocking out each step rather than multitasking. After each block, take a 5 minute break to get up, stretch, snack, etc. Repeat, repeat, repeat until done!

Ask about class accommodations

Pregnancy is considered a temporary disability. If you are experiencing difficult or even debilitating pregnancy symptoms, you may be able to receive special classroom and exam accommodations. Contact a representative from your school’s Office of Student Disabilities or Student Accessibility Services to discuss your options. You may be required to present a doctor’s note (if the school requires other disabled students to present similar verifications).

  • Appropriate Accommodations: Depending on your condition, you may be allowed such accommodations as permission to snack during class, permission to get up and use the bathroom frequently, extended exam times, a separate exam time with added break allowances, or even a larger desk to accommodate your baby belly (See The Pregnant Scholar handout here.)
  • You are excused: Remember, necessary pregnancy-related absences are excused regardless of the professor’s or school’s classroom attendance policies. Review your Title IX rights so that you can protect yourself from classroom discrimination, and contact your advisor or Title IX Coordinator to address issues.

Rest, rest, and rest some more

Prioritize your health. While it is so easy to waste time on Netflix or on social media, you need to rest. Look at your schedule and find times where you can sneak in some extra Zzz’s, and plan your days accordingly so that you get to bed.

  • Not-so-sneaky power naps: Hey, there is no shame in taking a little power nap! You’re growing a human– you deserve a nap! Find a quiet space in the library or an empty couch. Set an alarm so that you don’t pass out for too long! You might even want to pack a travel pillow or a sweatshirt to fold and rest on.
  • Get to bed early: Yes, Netflix and internet surfing can seem appealing after a long day of waddling around campus. But trust me, you need all the Zzzz’s you can get! Plan a reasonable bedtime (whether that be 9:30pm or 11pm), and stick to it. Netflix can wait.

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. For assistance finding pregnancy and parenting resources on campus, contact Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org. For other tips on balancing college and parenthood, please see: “Practical Advice for Student Moms.”

Georgetown can do better

Pregnant on Campus tabling display in Red Square

Pregnant on Campus tabling display in Red Square

This week, Georgetown University’s campus was abuzz with the controversial arrival of Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Invited by the undergraduate student group The Lecture Fund (known for bringing diverse and sometimes radical speakers to campus), her presence on campus brought mixed reactions. During the day, the student group Georgetown Right to Life provided a large pro-life display (including flags to represent the 3,000+ lives lost to abortion each day in the US) and an evening lecture by Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate and founder of And Then There Were None. The group was supported on campus by local activists and pro-life organizations, like Students for Life of America (who presented alternative healthcare resources and our Pregnant on Campus Initiative). Other students, like H*yas for Choice (a student group that is “financially and ideologically independent organization” yet an active presence on campus), tabled in Red Square with representatives from Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington Action Fund.

Amid all the chaos and chatter , my 8-month-old son and I spent the day talking to students about the Pregnant on Campus Initiative and the resources available at Georgetown. I wanted to find out what students knew about the available pregnancy and parenting resources and what they thought would be helpful solutions to making a Georgetown education more accessible to pregnant and parenting students.

At the heart of it all

Pregnancy and Sexual Assault Informational Stickers

Stickers identifying pregnancy resources found on the bathroom stall doors

To be clear, the Pregnant on Campus Initiative is committed to expanding and referring to resources that are helpful, compassionate, and non-violent. We believe that women are strong and capable, and  that no woman should be forced to choose between the life of her child and her goals. Pregnancy and parenthood doesn’t have to change her goals. With the right support and resources to address her unique needs, she can make a life-affirming choice for her child (i.e. parenting or adoption) and achieve her personal, educational, and career goals.

At the heart of it all, the question that we all want to answer is: How do we best support women? Despite varying positions on abortion, we can all agree that we should support pregnant and parenting students and that there should be an active effort to expand pregnancy and parenting resources on campus. With more support and resources on campus, education can actually be accessible to parenting students and not just wishful thinking. This is an issue where we all can work together to make Georgetown University (or any college or university) a place where women feel supported by their community and where they can achieve their educational goals– regardless of parenting status.

What does Georgetown offer?

So what does Georgetown offer pregnant and parenting students? I investigated Georgetown’s pregnancy and parenting resources, and here are some of the items that I found:

Other departments on campus are available to support pregnant students needs. For example, the Title IX Coordinator and the Academic Resource Center could work with pregnant students to inform professors of students’ Title IX rights and appropriate accommodations for pregnancy-related issues that may affect work or classroom performance. Campus Ministry could also provide guidance for students who wish for spiritual support.

Local resources that students may take advantage of include (but are not limited to):

  • Multiple pregnancy resource centers (including The Northwest Center, Centro Tepeyac Silver Spring Women’s Center, Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, HOPE in Northern Virginia, and Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center) that offer free, confidential resources and support such as pregnancy support and counseling, ultrasounds, material aid (e.g. baby items, maternity clothes), adoption services, after abortion support, housing, community referrals, parenting classes, prenatal classes, etc.

Room for improvement

As with any university, Georgetown has room for improvement. As I spoke to students and other passers-by in Red Square, I received some of the following feedback:

  • Students do want to discuss these needs and to work together to provide more resources and support on campus.
  • The Hoya Kids Learning Center is not a viable option for students. A parenting student stated that it is too expensive ($1,150+ per month depending on child’s age). It also does not offer infant care, and the waiting list would be a deterrent for parenting students. (“Families should expect to be on the Hoya Kids waiting list for 18 to 24 months or more.“)
  • The availability of flexible class options (e.g. online and night classes) may affect some parenting students who need to schedule classes to accommodate a full schedule of child care, working hours, and/or other family needs.
  • Transportation might be a concern for a parenting student who needs to get to-and-from campus quickly to pick up her child from child care or to relieve a babysitter.
  • The overall expenses of a Georgetown education and the expenses of raising a young child may pose pressure on a student to leave Georgetown or consider abortion.

I found that most students whom I spoke with (including a currently parenting student who had her child while studying at Georgetown) were surprised by the above-listed available resources. Several people stated that while these resources were helpful, they weren’t enough to meet the real financial and child care demands of a parenting student.

In furthering exploring this issue, I made a visit to the Intercultural Center to see one of the lactation rooms (Mother’s Rooms) on campus. While the room was locked, I was surprised to see that the entrance had cement stairs which would limit stroller access into the room and would be problematic for new moms who may struggle with some mobility issues after a c-section or difficult labor/delivery. I was also surprised that the women’s bathroom nearest this Mother’s Room lacked a diaper deck or even a counter space that could accommodate diaper changing needs. That being said, I want to note that on a previous campus visit, I was easily accommodated with access to another Mother’s Room on campus which was stroller accessible, comfortable, and well equipped.

Georgetown can do better

Georgetown has made a good faith effort to address the needs of pregnant and parenting students. (In fact, they’ve done a lot more than many of the private colleges I’ve reviewed.) However, it is clear that students on campus remain concerned and even distressed about the lack of some resources. Georgetown can do better.

How can we better support students - PonCThe Georgetown community can and should work together to continue to address this issue. To make Georgetown truly accessible to pregnant and parenting students, continued efforts must be made on campus to make Georgetown more “family friendly” and to decrease the financial burden of parenting students (e.g. by adding more diaper decks on campus, expanding campus child care programs, increasing aid opportunities for parenting students). Such efforts would not only benefit students but also working mothers and visitors. Even more so, these improvements would boast a true commitment to the Jesuit value of “Cura Personalis.”

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. If you are interested in expanding pregnancy and parenting resources on your campus, please contact your SFLA Regional Coordinator or email pregnancyresources@studentsforlife.org.

Book borrowing program saves SLU mamas $$$

TextbooksSometimes great resources can appear in places we don’t always think to look. What is your biggest unexpected expense every semester? For me, it’s always textbooks. I try to look up my class materials and budget ahead of time, but inevitably, there is that one professor who adds a costly book during the first week. Or, I change classes, and the new class has more expensive books. My textbook costs usually end up double my initial budgeted amount. I work and get some help from my parents; so I am able to cover the increase in costs, but if I had a child, I can see how that ever increasing cost would be difficult to absorb.

At Saint Louis University (SLU), pregnant and parenting students have the option of applying for financial aid from the Virginia D. Murphy Endowment. An offshoot of SLU Students for Life, the Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance (PPSA) Committee, fundraises for the Endowment and advocates to improve the campus environment for pregnant and parenting students. In the initial phases of the development of the PPSA and the Endowment, the University Bookstore offered an incredible resource: a book borrowing program. A student presented on the Endowment and the PPSA to a meeting of University Division Leadership personnel, and afterward, the owner of the bookstore approached the student and offered to help by providing free book rentals to pregnant and parenting students. An agreement was formalized where the PPSA can offer free rental textbooks through the University bookstore to a few students each semester. When students apply for aid through the PPSA, the textbook rental offers are distributed at the same time as monetary aid. Students sign a contract agreeing to returSLU PPSAn the books, and then have use of the books for the entire semester, just as they would a rental, at no cost.

The book-borrowing program saves pregnant and parenting students hundreds of dollars on school expenses, and it didn’t even require fundraising to make it possible. Monetary aid is, of course, always helpful, but sometimes just getting textbooks covered can be a huge hand up.

 

This post was contributed by Ashley Johann, a student leader at Saint Louis University. To learn more about SLU’s Pregnant and Parenting Assistance programs, check out their PPSA Facebook page and PPSA website, or email the group at ppsa@slu.edu

University of Michigan SFL group reaches out to pregnant students

It’s hard to be pro-life at the University of Michigan. It’s even harder to convince people that Pregnant on Campus (PonC) is not synonymous with “Manipulate Women into Not Getting Abortions.” But after a few years of building a foundation, our PonC projects are really starting to affect our campus, and people are beginning to realize that the core of the youth pro-life movement is all about caring for life – born or unborn, pregnant or parenting or neither or both.

“I’m pregnant. Now what?”

This was the subject line of an email we received from a pregnant student a few weeks ago. Our first line of communication with pregnant students usually comes through an email such as this one. Our email address for Pregnant on Campus, pregnantinfo@umich.edu, forwards emails to me and a few other students in our SFL group, and whoever is able to respond first will address their questions and usually ask if they want to meet in person to talk.

College students love money.

This is not a phenomenon unique to pregnant or parenting students, although it may be more of a pressing need to them than to many others. One of our focuses this year was to start establishing a scholarship for pregnant or parenting students. We liked the idea of showing our dedication to helping them in a tangible and direct way, and we also thought that having a scholarship would be an effective way to draw students to us who might not otherwise ask for our help. With some of our own funds, a grant from the wonderful Students for Life of Michigan, and many generous donations from our friends who came to our fundraising gala, we were able to raise about $1000 and still have some left over to kick-start next year’s scholarship. What is even more exciting is that we already have a student to give the scholarship money to!

UMich Fundraising Gala

The SFL team and alum at our fundraising gala

Step into our office.

Up until this year, we have used our office space to store giant plastic bins full of rocks. Literally rocks. So when we were contacted by a pregnant student this year who wanted to meet, we hauled out the rocks, tucked our adoption pamphlets into nice little stacks, and stuck some posters from ArborWoman, the local Pregnancy Center, on our walls. The space transformed into the inviting, comfortable, life-affirming room that we intended it to be.

We hold open office hours on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays in our newly rock-free office in the student union. We rent the office through the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC), which also coordinates advertising and other services for student orgs. The goal of office hours is to provide a space where pregnant students, expectant fathers, or anyone else can come talk to peers, find resources, and ask questions in a safe, judgement-free environment. To get started each semester, we send out a Doodle (a really helpful online scheduling tool!) and Students for Life members sign up for hour-long shifts, usually one day per week, which fit with their class schedule. For the most part, we have one person manning the office at a time, but we always make sure to have at least one female member present. We don’t know every pregnant student’s story, and we want to make sure they feel completely comfortable.

UMich PonC tabling

Chloe and Katie tabling in Madison Hall

Our office space is full of information – some we collected and typed up ourselves after surveying resources on campus and around the community, and some we’ve gotten through SFLA, Feminists for Life, Adoption Associates, ArborWoman, government websites, and more. But despite the myriad of flyers and pamphlets that we have collected, we have realized that every student we talk to is in a different situation and feels differently about their pregnancy, and there isn’t just one handout we can give them that will tell them everything they need to know about being a pregnant student at the University of Michigan. Once we’ve talked to a student for a while, we have a better idea of what steps we can take to be the most helpful for her specific needs. We don’t always know how to help right away during our meetings. We make sure to note all of the student’s questions and concerns so that we can do the legwork and research the answers for them. I think one of the most important things to do is to lighten a student’s load so that being pregnant or being a parent is not a burden, but a time to celebrate and experience the joy of life! It’s important to remember, too, that we aren’t experts, and we don’t always need to be; there are so many people who we can reach out to and ask about services and resources. Networking with local pregnancy centers is key!

Spreading the word.

UMich Banner

New SFL Pregnant on Campus advertising board at the University of Michigan

This year, we got tired of seeing the lack of advertising for life-affirming options on campus. With a little investigation, we discovered advertising services that were available to us at a (relatively) low cost through the SORC, and we got to work making Pregnant on Campus a recognizable name. Stickering, flyering, and chalking aren’t the most effective for us, because usually anything we put up gets pulled down or covered up within a couple of days, so the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC) offered more permanent, harder-to-destroy advertising. We entered the lottery system with all of the other student orgs who applied and were able to get a week of advertising space in table tents in the Michigan Union and various other student spaces on campus, as well as a space in one of the advertising boards that are scattered across the “diag” that crosses our central campus. We also found that our Central Student Government gives out grants to student orgs to cover costs of basic things like advertising; so we were able to get some of our money reimbursed. I designed the diag board, and we had it made for a reasonable price at the University’s Sign and Graphics Department. Then the SORC put it up for us. These boards are seen by thousands upon thousands of students every day. They are a fantastic way to spread the word about our group and the help that we are offering! We even got students’ attention enough to attract a little bit of abortion-related graffiti. (Helpful hint: Choose a background color that doesn’t show sharpie very well.)

It’s all so worth it.

I spent my first few months as our SFL group’s Pregnant on Campus Coordinator fretting about finding every possible resource available and worrying that I would somehow fail and make a pregnant student feel less supported. Then I talked to one amazing student, our scholarship winner, who was both excited and terrified to be facing college life as a pregnant student and needed our help. Suddenly, I truly felt like I was making a difference in her life, however small it may be. That’s what Pregnant on Campus is all about: making even just one more pregnant student feel more empowered to follow her dreams while raising her child. As we advertised and set up tables of resources, talked to our friends and posted on social media, more and more students approached us to ask who we are or to tell us about their experiences as a pregnant student. Just recently, our second pregnant student reached out to us for help. I am starting to see that there is this whole invisible world of pregnant students at the University of Michigan, and Pregnant on Campus is truly helping bring them out into the light. Trust me, you want to be a part of it.

UMIch group fun

SFL group bonding over pizza

This post was contributed by Chloe Alberta of Students for Life at the University of Michigan. If you would like to share your group’s work, please contact Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org 

Win the Pregnant on Campus Group of the Year Award!

The Pregnant on Campus Group of the Year Award will recognize the achievements of two  Students for Life college groups thatMiss State Group Award have excelled in promoting pregnant and parenting resources. (One award will be given to an East Coast group; the other award will be given to an West Coast group.) The SFLA Pregnant on Campus Groups of the Year should demonstrate success in pregnant and parenting advocacy and outreach on their college campus. This group should show significant efforts to change their campus to embrace practices and policies that protect and assist pregnant and parenting students.

Apply Today

The winning group will receive gift cards (valued at $250) to be used in your Pregnant on Campus outreach (e.g. baby showers, student support). One group representative must be present at either the 2016 SFLA East Coast National Conference or the SFLA West Coast National Conference. Please note (at the bottom of the application) whether you are applying for the East Coast or West Coast award.

Please email the completed application no later than January 15th to Beth Rahal at brahal@studentsforlife.org.