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

Brooke: A better life for my family

We love stories from pregnant and parenting students, and we admire their courage and persistence in pursuing their education. Here’s a great testimony from Brooke Brinson, a parenting student at the University of Alabama.

Why have you decided to pursue a college education while also parenting?Brooke and Son

I was already in my Sophomore year of college when I found out that I was pregnant. To me, it felt like one of those times where I could either quit college and maybe decide to go back years later, or I could just try my best to finish as soon as possible. My school and my academic advisors were surprisingly very helpful and really wanted to help me finish getting my degree. My main reasoning, though, is that a college degree means better job opportunities, which will in turn mean a better life for my family once I have completed my education.

What are you studying? What are your career goals?

I am studying Business with a minor in Consumer Sciences. I am hoping to someday open my own business, but for now I would really like to take a management position in an existing company and hopefully utilize my knowledge of Consumer Sciences.

How have you been able to balance your education and your motherhood?

I am very lucky in this area of my life. My school has been very accommodating to my goals. I am completing my degree through the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies, which is strictly online. This means I don’t have a set class time, so I don’t have to find childcare for my son. I get a lot of work done during his nap time, and I also rely on my husband to help out a little bit in the afternoons if I have an especially hard task. The only time that I have to find care for my son is to take exams at a public library (since my exams are proctored). This makes a world of difference to me since I don’t think that we could afford childcare full time while I went to school.

What challenges have you faced as a parenting student?

The biggest challenge, for me, is finding that balance between being a student and being a mom. There are times when it can be very stressful trying to get assignments done on time or studying for tests, but once you find that balance it can be pretty easy. I have found that I just have to treat my school work like a full-time job. Sometimes that means not having much of a social life or not getting an excess amount of sleep, but when I get my Bachelor’s degree next year, it will make it that much more meaningful to me.

What advice would you give to other college-aged moms?

The best piece of advice I can give is to apply for all of the grants and scholarships that you can. You’ll be surprised how much is there for you and how many resources are just waiting to be tapped into. Also, don’t be afraid to take some time off or maybe only go part time to save yourself from bad grades. I took a year off while pregnant to get through some extreme morning sickness and of course the birth of my son so that my grades wouldn’t suffer, and that was probably the best thing that I could’ve done for myself. The trick is starting back after your time off, though. Just keep in mind that you are now responsible for your child’s life as well as your own, and these few years of working hard will give you and your child a better life in the future.

Brooke- Parenting StudentThanks, Brooke! We hope that young women will be inspired to build a future for their families.

Do you have a story to share? Contact our Pregnant on Campus Coordinator, Beth, and we’ll work with you to share your story.

Practical Advice for Student Moms

Amberosity isAmberosity- Baby a 22-year-old parenting student now attending Oregon State University. As the mom of 3 young children and expecting her fourth child this Fall, Amberosity generously offered her advice to other pregnant and parenting students.

 

Find at least one solid support person.

You are going to have days where you question why you are doing this and how you are ever going to make it. Unfortunately, these times seem to hit especially during the most difficult parts of college/parenthood and not during the good times. You need to have at least one person who can support you, help you work through the stress, and remind you that your goals can be reached. For myself, this person has been my husband. I cannot begin to count the number of times when he has offered a hug, brought me my favorite snacks, or simply reminded me that I can do this and why I am doing this. For other people, this support person may be a parent, a mentor, or a friend.

Be passionate about your major but also realistic.

As a parent, you have to think even more critically about what careers will be available to you once you graduate and the future health of those careers. At the same time, if you are not passionate about your major, it is going to be difficult to be motivated to complete the degree.

Accept/ask for help.

There are a lot of resources available for students and parents. Within your college, don’t be afraid to ask for advice and help from your advisor and professors. They are not only paid to help you, they want you to succeed. Also, many schools offer free tutoring for students. Colleges are also creating a lot more programs for students with families which you may be able to use even if you are going online. For example, my college provides a free membership to Care.com for students which I can use to find babysitters in my local area. If you have family or friends who offer to help, accept it. Look into programs at the local and state level as well. Focus on using state programs as a temporary resource to help you get a step up and succeed. There will be many chances in the future where you will be able to pay it forward and help someone else in need.

Connect with your professors.

If possible, connect early on in the course with your professors. If you are pregnant, make it a point to contact them during the first week of the course if not before to discuss the best way to manage coursework. Establishing a connection and communicating throughout the course will make things much easier. If something drastic happens (e.g. a power outage or very sick child), let them know as soon as possible. If you need to ask for an extensions, then ask. The worse a professor can say is ‘no’. If you ask as far before the deadline as you can, it may also make it more likely that the professor is willing to work with you.

Connect with other parents.

This can be really difficult for young mothers- especially when you are also juggling school. But try to find a few other parents to connect to. These may be other mothers on campus, moms at a local library story-time or MOPS group, moms at your local church etc… Other moms can more easily understand the struggles and joys of raising children. They also provide a valuable resource for ideas and advice.

Grades don’t make the person.

Good grades are important to a point. They will help you get scholarships while in college. However, when you graduate no employer is going to care if you got an ‘A’ in English 101. Two things do matter; what you ultimately learn from the course and the time you spend with your family/children. Sometimes it is best to do that art project with your kids instead of taking that time to study.

Look all over for the best deals on textbooks.

While some of my textbooks I still do use for reference, many I have only used for the classes I bought them for. The huge majority I have not bought from the college bookstore. I look online for many deals and try to buy used. Make sure you also figure in shipping whenever you are trying to find the cheapest price. If you live near campus find the campuses selling, barter, swap page (Facebook often has these) and see what textbooks other students are selling.

Ask about using a later edition.

I had to buy a 3rd edition ornithology textbook for a class. It was selling for $90-$100 on every site. However the 2nd edition was only $10. I emailed the professor and got permission to use the 2nd edition, saving me about $80. Many textbook editions have very small changes so don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you can use an earlier edition.

Use the library resources.

I live across the continent from my college but make use of my local libraries. The librarians at my local library proctor my college exams for free. At one point, I needed a textbook just for the last 3 weeks of a course. I was able to get the book through interlibrary loan for $1.50 shipping saving myself about $30. Both your local library and college library will have tons of resources for research online and in print. Many college libraries have limited copies of required textbooks for in-library use (you can’t check them out). Also many local libraries host children’s story times for all ages (from newborn upward) and other great activities for free. My local library hosts a mommy/baby/toddler yoga session for free each week.

Remember that this is possible and worth it.

Completing college on its own is a daunting task. Parenting is honestly terrifying as well. It was never my plan to be parenting and going to school. I was terrified when expecting my first child, but it has been completely worth it. I would not change anything. There have been times where I have debated my decision to attend college, but I have never debated my decision to give life to my children. I love attending college and I love being a mother. I firmly believe that both are possible, especially with the increasing focus on nontraditional students within our secondary education systems.

 

Thank you, Amberosity, for your practical advice! We encourage other parenting students to contribute their stories and advice by emailing our Coordinator at pregnancyresources@studentsforlife.org