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Monday, October 25, 2021

Diapers and Midterms: The double life of a UCD student parent

Junior Armira Saragoza is always conscious of stares she receives from classmates and peers as she walks into a classroom or alone on campus with her backpack and books.

“I almost feel like I’m in high school. A lot of people stare at me like they are saying, ‘what are you doing here?’ They look at my belly,” Saragoza said.

Saragoza, a community and regional development major, is seven months pregnant with her second child, a boy.

As a re-entry college student and a parent, Saragoza – and other student parents – must navigate between two very different worlds, each with separate daily demands and pressures.

“My priorities are very different from students who are not moms and don’t have kids. I can’t just go home and sit in front of a computer and do homework,” Saragoza said.

Shirley Sperry, a Transfer Re-entry Veteran (TRV) advisor, knows intimately the struggles of student parents in college. Her office, located in Dutton Hall, has been used on a number of occasions as a substitute for a daycare.

As a result, a collection of donated toys, board games, crayons and stuffed animals are permanent fixtures in Sperry’s office.

“[Student parents] have a lot of issues regular students don’t have,” Sperry said.

Finding affordable childcare is often one of the biggest issues that student parents face on a daily basis. According to Barbara Ashby, the manager of the university’s human resources group, UC Davis Worklife, a 2000 campuswide assessment revealed that 24 percent of respondents were students who need childcare.

Ashby suggests that student parents should plan ahead and have a back-up plan when looking for childcare, especially for infants and toddlers, since the demand for childcare services on or near the campus is high.

“Be an informed consumer and plan. Setting realistic expectations and attainable goals, even if it takes longer to achieve them, will lessen the stress of juggling academics, employment and child rearing,” Ashby said in an e-mail interview.

Junior English major and re-entry student Lindsey Campbell has a four-year-old daughter currently enrolled in daycare, where she stays until Campbell picks her up in the evening after school.

“My child always comes first. School is like my secondary life. Right at the end of my school day I start my parenting day,” Campbell said.

Campbell, who is starting her second quarter at UC Davis as a transfer student, said when she first went to class, she felt very isolated and outnumbered.

Saragoza, whose first child is two years old, shared the same feelings as Campbell of feeling distant from the majority of her peers.

“I feel like I don’t fit in. I don’t meet many married women or women with kids on campus,” she said.

In fact, Campbell and Saragoza are not alone in their feelings as a student parent.

Katie Cougevan, a counselor at the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center on campus, runs a support group for new and expecting student moms on campus.

“[Becoming a parent] is a huge transition no matter where you are in life. Support and connections are very important,” Cougevan said.

The Pregnant Students and New Moms support group, operating through CAPS for its second year, is open to all undergraduate and graduate students.

“One thing that’s really important is moms sharing their [experiences of] pregnancies and births and new babies with each other,” Cougevan said.

Even outside the support group, students have connected by offering each other childcare, taking stroller walks together and setting up play dates.

At the end of every quarter, Cougevan hosts a donation shower in which contributions from local woman’s groups, businesses and student parents donate car seats, strollers, clothes, toys and other supplies are made available, free of charge, to student moms.

Yet another valuable resource that student parents can expect towards the end of this quarter is a pamphlet, created by ASUCD senator Alison Tanner, which will include information about counseling, financial aid, housing and other campus and community resources.

Tanner, a senior women’s studies major, says the pamphlet will be the first actual resource guide put out by ASUCD for student parents and students who have an unplanned pregnancy.

“The stresses [for students who are expecting or already have children] of figuring out what your options are can become a negative experience,” Tanner said.

But while navigating the intersecting worlds of student and parent is a challenge, it does not mean that student parents or expecting mothers are not successful in finishing and excelling in college.

Anabel De Krogstad, a junior re-entry student and film studies major, is just one example of how successful student parents can be.

Krogstad, a mother of four children with the oldest being 13 years old, came to UC Davis on a scholarship after excelling in community college where a counselor pushed her to move forward with her education.

“A lot of people pushed me, like Forrest Gump, to get my education. I want to be a model for my girls and to be a strong mom,” Krogstad said.

This past fall quarter, Krogstad was able to show just how strong she was when she passed all her classes with straight As, making the dean’s list. It was her first quarter at UC Davis.

JESSY WEI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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