Student parents at CSU: ‘We’re here’

Gerson Flores

Students at Colorado State University came together to create the first Student Parent Organization on campus last semester, offering resources, support and a community for students with children. 

The two CSU students knew that while the resources available for adult learners on campus were varied, CSU still lacked the representation of a certain community: student parents. 

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Photo courtesy of Chelsey Beardsley.

A few weeks later, the official Student Parent Organization was up and running. 

“We each had this idea (to create the club),” said Mikaela Dalton, CSU senior human development and family studies major. “Then we got together, and we just made it happen.”

Dalton and Olivia Martinez, a CSU junior social work major, serve as the vice president and president of the Student Parent Organization, respectively. Their mission, they said, is to serve and help student parents at CSU find a community in which they can interact with other student parents.

The Student Parent Organization welcomes students of all walks of life to its events, which are family friendly, Dalton and Martinez said. The organization fights for ways to help parents navigate both school and family life. 

We want the student parents to be able to not be penalized when they miss class due to a sick kid.” -Josh Johnson, senior psychology major, ASCSU senator, adult learner

Dalton and Martinez said they believe some of the policies in place can be changed to create a more inclusive environment toward student parents. One of the many things they are working towards are more flexible attendance policies for student-parents. There are currently no policies specifically addressing student-parents’ needs. 

“Well, student-parents is a big fight right now,” said Josh Johnson, CSU senior psychology major, ASCSU senator and adult learner at CSU. “We want the student parents to be able to not be penalized when they miss class due to a sick kid because if your child is sick and he or she has a fever, you can’t bring your child or let them go back to school. You have to stay with your child, and if you stay with your child, you’re missing class.”

For a lot of student parents, this could mean taking sick absences that aren’t personally theirs. 

“You essentially end up taking double absences,” Martinez said.

Furthermore, Johnson argued how possible and ideal it would be for parents to pick their children up from school in the middle of classes. 

Photo courtesy of Chelsey Beardsley.

Martinez said this is an issue she personally has to figure out. Sometimes it can become a struggle to accommodate her own personal schedule and her kids’ schedules.

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For instance, Martinez said last semester she had to miss class when local schools closed due to bad weather.

Martinez and Dalton also said many student-parents have to rely on childcare, which can become a financial burden for many parents. Martinez said childcare is often more than $1,000 a month, which can sometimes be hard for students to cover.

It would be great if CSU would help student-parents with the high cost of childcare, Martinez and Dalton said.

Many student parents also face challenges when they get back home, Martinez and Dalton said. Student parents often juggle a series of duties that include working, going to class, studying and taking care of their family. 

Martinez said if she had a traditional job, she would be able to request time-off to attend more of her children’s activities.

“As a student, I can’t make it to a lot of my children’s events,” Martinez said.

But in many ways, the struggles student parents face can also create positive change, Dalton said.

Childcare can range up to $1,000 a month and that can sometimes be hard for students to cover.” -Olivia Martinez, president, Student Parent Organization

As a first-generation student, Dalton said she never stepped foot on a college campus for most of her early life.

With this, Dalton said children of student parents will be propelled to pursue a higher education after watching their parents pursue their own.

Photo courtesy of Chelsey Beardsley.

This is especially something Martinez expressed. Martinez said her children love to be on campus with her and say they may want to go to CSU someday.

And, at the end of the day, Dalton and Martinez said the Student Parent Organization aims to create a more kid-friendly space and student parent-friendly atmosphere on campus. 

“We recently had an event at the museum filled with families and chaperones to make the place more child-friendly,” Dalton said. 

Some of the many resources CSU offers student parents are scholarships and grants that can help alleviate the cost of school. CSU also offers Ram Kidz Village, a program at the Morgan Library that can help students who are trying to study or work in group projects. 

Fellow students can also make a difference in creating an environment that is student parent friendly, Dalton and Martinez said. 

“Be willing to get to know the students,” Dalton said. “You can find them on RamLink, the ALVS and Facebook.”

Dalton said all CSU needs to know is, “We’re here.”

Editor’s note: Josh Johnson is a member of the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation Board of Directors.

Gerson Flores Rojas can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @GersonFloresRo1.