I walked into Synod Hall room 119 for the first group meeting of students with kids on Tuesday, September 16, and I expected a busy room with lots of kids running around. What I found instead was a quiet room with Rachel Denny, the organizer of this group, and her three-year-old daughter, Zadaya.
Granted, I was 15 minutes early, but I definitely expected more people to want a piece of this support system. I sat down with Denny to talk about her life as a student-parent and her hopes for the new group.
Technically, credit wise, Denny is a junior here at Wittenberg because she took a year off after her freshman year to take care of her newborn daughter.
To her, the difference between college students with kids and college students without is that “students with kids have a different experience, we have more responsibility.” She explained that every day is a constant balance between her child, school, and work.
Though she has the benefit of living in Wittenberg-owned housing — thanks to help from Jeanne Riedel, housing coordinator — when other students hang out after class, Denny has to drive off campus to pick up her daughter from daycare. This greatly affects her social life, seeing as she can’t party or join in many other campus activities. Furthermore, holidays such as Labor Day mean no daycare, and no class for Denny. She hopes Wittenberg could start to work on a campus daycare to better meet the needs of students with kids.
She hopes Wittenberg could be more involved in helping “to have specific accommodations on ‘the book.’” She would like to see our school better acknowledge student-parents and help them through the sometimes difficult process of learning and parenting. However, Denny does appreciate that Wittenberg doesn’t charge her extra to bring her daughter to lunch. Her daughter likes to eat here, and she is especially fond of “eggs, cereal, and pizza.”
I decided to see what the child thought of the place she calls “mommy’s school”, and as we talked I wrote notes with the crayons she gave me. As she colored, she told me about her love for eating here and her belief that the student center was the whole school.
Denny asked her, “Do you want to go to Mommy’s school when you get older?” The little girl replied, “Yes, I do, Mommy”. She hopes to graduate in the class of 2033, studying how to be a princess.
Denny has high hopes for her new campus group. She wants it to be a safe place where students like her can find a support system to help them through school. She wants to set up play dates for the kids so that parents could have an easier time studying and/or provide a social aspect that could build connections between parents from out-of-state and those from Ohio. Being a Wisconsin native so far away from home has not been without struggles for Denny and her daughter, but the chance to meet other parents and build those relationships would be essential to their success here.
Denny hopes to see a bigger turn out at her next meeting so she can kickstart this great opportunity for other parents. ‘Students with kids’ is advised by Professor Wagner from the Sociology Department. They will meet every Tuesday at 6:00 pm in Synod Hall room 119.