Single Parent Gets Financial Aid Reinstated – Thanks to the Pregnant on Campus Initiative!

An appeal for help

The phone rang. It was a 10:35 am, and I didn’t recognize the number, although it had a Colorado ID. On other end was a desperate sounding young mom of an 11-week-old baby.

“I was given your number and told that you could help me with my rights as a single parent and student,” the young woman on the other end said hurriedly. (We’ll call her *Esther.)

Esther’s story rapidly unfolded. She goes to a Colorado community college (where we just started a Students for Life club), and she received my number from someone I gave it to when I clipboarded with the Students for Life leaders in November. Esther had to miss class when she gave birth to her son in November. Unfortunately, Esther had not been informed of her Title IX rights by her professors, academic advisor, or school administration. She did not know that necessary pregnancy-related absences (like childbirth and recovery from childbirth) are protected under Title IX. She should have been allowed excused absences from her classes as well as accommodated with enough time and information to make up any missed classwork, assignments, and exams.

Her professors and school staff failed to provide this critical information and support. Esther ended up dropping out of a class and taking an incomplete in another class. She was later informed that she did not complete enough credits to be able to qualify for financial aid this term.

I texted our National Pregnant on Campus Director, Beth Rahal, and we worked together to come up with the information and steps that Esther needed to take in order to effectively resolve her situation. We sent Esther an email explaining her rights under Title IX and why her situation should be deemed a Title IX violation. We provided her with the name and contact info for the Title IX Coordinator at her college, as well as a detailed explanation of what questions to ask and how to explain and defend her situation.

Esther texted me that evening – February 1st – letting me know that she appealed her appeal. Within two days, Esther had recovered her financial aid. She told me recently that she feels so empowered to be a mom and finish her education. “I was about to have a mental breakdown before I called you,” she said.

When people around the country heard about Esther’s story, they offered to donate to a baby shower for her. So on Thursday, March 9th, our Students for Life club threw Esther a baby shower as their first official event! Esther’s face lit up as she opened a package with a baby gym and boxes of diapers for her little son.

A Change of Heart

I thought I knew what love was. Then I had my son,” Esther said. “It’s like, ‘No! I’ve got to hold him!” Esther exclaimed.

But like many students in her position, this wasn’t always Esther’s perspective when she thought of having a baby – just one year ago. “I made an appointment for an abortion. My town’s Planned Parenthood was booked out several weeks. So I made an appointment at a Planned Parenthood an hour or so away.”

“When I asked my friend to drive me to a ‘doctor’s appointment’ out of town, she said, ‘Why are you going there for a doctor’s appointment? What’s up?’”

“A stomach bug, you know,” Esther lied.

“Come on,” her friend replied. “What’s really going on?”

At this point, Esther told her friend the truth. Her friend responded, “You’re trying to hide that you’re getting an abortion because you know you’re going to regret it. Let’s tell our youth pastor….”

Esther never showed up for her abortion appointment.

A Community of Support

Esther’s church and community surrounded her with the love and help that she needed to succeed as a new mom and a student. They provided babysitting and tangible support when she needed it most. Esther is also especially grateful for the rapid response of the Students for Life of America team. “I thought I was going to have to wait for weeks,” Esther said. “But you picked up the phone and gave me the contact information for who to talk with within a couple hours. Within two days, everything was resolved.”

We are so happy to be a part of Esther’s journey and to have had the opportunity to assist Esther and her family! Students for Life America’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative helps pregnant and parenting students in all 50 states complete their education and connects them to local resources including childcare, healthcare, health insurance, housing, food, clothing, and pregnancy testing and counseling.

 

This post was contributed by Bethany Janzen, Rocky Mountain Regional Coordinator at Students for Life of America. *The parenting student’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

Title IX saves lives

Learning to Care

As a student-athlete in college, I had heard about Title IX ever so briefly during our team orientations. We were lectured on gender equity in sports and informed that our women’s teams would be just as well supported as our male counterparts. There was probably a Q&A segment, and maybe we had to fill out papers to sign acknowledging our awareness of this information. Other than that, it wasn’t a big deal. I might have also heard about Title IX in history class or in passing references to sexual harassment and assault on campus, but for the most part, I was in the dark. For all I cared, Title IX was 5 letters and 2 Roman numerals.

I find that this is the case with most students. If you aren’t personally experiencing discrimination on campus or in a position to need these types of resources, you aren’t likely to have sought out this information or learned it in earnest. Many times, we don’t bother learning critical information, like Title IX rights and accommodations or even our local pregnancy support resources, until we need it (for ourselves or a classmate asking for help). We assume that we’ll be able to access all this information when the time comes.

And while this is true in many cases, it’s not the best approach! Delays in providing information can cause more distress for your pregnant and parenting peers. As a student leader on campus (especially one who advocates for pregnant and parenting students), you need to take the time to research this information, compile it in one place, and discuss it with your group so that you are prepared to respond promptly and effectively to the concerns and needs of your peers.

Why It Matters

Title IX provides protections and accommodations for pregnant and parenting students at schools which receive federal funding. Therefore, it can be a great tool to ensure that pregnant and parenting students stay in school and receive fair accommodations and support. Unfortunately, most students don’t know that these protections and accommodations are available. This can lead to students making devastating choices (e.g. dropping out of school or getting an abortion). Lack of information can also prevent a student from asserting her rights when she is being discriminated against or not adequate support.

Over the past 3 years, our Students for Life of America staff has noted that Title IX information is one of the top resources that pregnant and parenting students request. Simple, articulate explanations of this information has yielded some amazing results! Here are some of the situations we have witnessed over the years:

After learning about Title IX …

  • Pregnant students are better able to communicate their situation, their rights, and their needs to their professors and administrations.
  • Students have been able to resolve issues of grades and class credits that resulted from improper handlings of pregnancy-related absences (e.g. missed classwork during childbirth and recovery).
  • Pregnant students have been able to stay on their sports teams and in their special programs (e.g. honors classes) without penalty or loss of scholarship.
  • Parenting students have been able to defend their right to breastfeed their babies on campus.

This past week, we had the opportunity to work with a parenting student (Ruth) at Pikes Peak Community College to resolve her financial aid situation. Ruth was told that she would lose financial aid after having not completed enough class credits in the past semester. However, Ruth had never received Title IX information or additional support to complete those classes. Thanks to some quick teamwork, we were able to explain how to address this situation with the school’s Title IX Coordinator and what information to present. It was a success!

Lives Saved

What’s more, Title IX has saved lives. About two weeks ago, our West Coast Regional Director, Reagan Barklage, was contacted by the Executive Director of a pregnancy resource center. The Executive Director had a client who was a student-athlete. The young girl considered aborting her baby because she was afraid that she would lose her basketball scholarship and have to drop off the team.

Thankfully, our Pregnant on Campus Initiative is prepared to handle these situations. Reagan and I worked together to get Title IX and NCAA student-athlete information sent to the Executive Director. After explaining this Title IX information, this brave student-athlete chose life!

What You Can Do

We want you to be able to effectively support your pregnant and parenting peers on campus. Contact our team for such resources as:

  • Title IX student group training
  • Title IX flyers and social media graphics
  • Ideas for how to advertise and share this information
  • Assistance in dealing with a Title IX pregnancy or parenting situation on your campus

Learn more about Title IX here: www.PregnantOnCampus.org/Students-Rights

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Director. To share your story or your group’s successes on campus, email Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org.