Single Moms Can Go to College: Unique Housing Option for Single Mothers and their Children
Single moms don’t normally receive a traditional college experience – unless they happen to be a part of the Mothers Living and Learning Community at the College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska! Single mothers can not only go to college and work for a degree just like any other student, but these students still get to be “mom” when not hitting the books. My College Guide interviewed Sarah Watkins, the Director of the Mothers Living and Learning Community, to learn about this unusual college housing option.
What is the Mothers Living and Learning Community?
Mothers Living & Learning is a residential option for single mothers with up to two children under the age of 10 years old to live on the campus of College of Saint Mary and attend classes full time. Mothers Living & Learning is located in Walsh Hall on the third and fourth floors, and houses up to 35 women and their children. In many ways, it is very much like the traditional residence halls, however, each floor has its own playroom for the kids to play, and areas for the mothers to do homework. Our program has two main goals: to give single mothers a traditional college campus experience, and also to assist them with developing the skills necessary to live independently and act as head-of-household. In order to meet the latter goal, we offer independent living classes, parenting information, and connect students with community resources and services.
Single moms and their children live on-campus? Can they participate in the usual campus events?
Most definitely, and we actually encourage it. One of the best ways to be a successful student is to become involved in campus organizations and activities. At CSM we held the beginning of our Heritage Week festivities this last weekend, and events included everything from formal banquets, flag football, DJ’s and live music and a bounce house for the kids. CSM greatly appreciates the presence of children on our campus, and we encourage them to participate in our events as well. Many of the single mothers living on and off campus are active in a multitude of student organizations and athletics as well.
Everyone always wants to know: what about the rooms? What amenities does the Mothers Living and Learning Community possess?
Right now, the rooms in Mothers Living & Learning come in three different sizes…students refer to them as small, medium, and large. Because the space on the third and fourth floor has been through many remodels, the rooms are each unique. We have community bathrooms but each mother is assigned her own bathroom and shower stall for her family, and depending on the age of the child, she will also be assigned a bath tub. In some cases, you will share your bath tub with another mother. We have full-time maintenance staff that clean the community areas, floors, etc. and all residents are provided with a meal plan as part of their room and board costs. There is no additional fee for children, although mothers pay the double-room rate to have a private dorm room. As I mentioned previously, the play rooms on each floor are a large draw to both children and potential students.
Notice I said “right now” – indicating that something may change. Well, what I was referring to there is the plan to build a new residence hall solely for Mothers Living & Learning. The new hall will be amazing, suite-style living, four bedrooms per suite, with a living space and kitchenette. Each floor will have its own play room. Continue to watch for our updates as we progress with this. We should be breaking ground no later than Fall 2012.
What does this program hope to achieve?
The two main goals again are 1) to give single parent students an opportunity to live on campus and have a somewhat traditional college experience, and 2) to help single parents to develop the skills necessary for living independently; granting the confidence to act as head-of-household. Last year we had 8 graduates from the Mothers Living & Learning program. We watched their children beam at their mothers with pride, and their mothers walking proudly into the world. That’s what this program hopes to continue and build upon.
How many mothers and their children can this program currently hold? (any plans for expansion)
Currently we can hold up to 35 residents and their children. When our new residence hall is completed, we will have a capacity for 48 students.
What does a single mom who is considering attending the College of Saint Mary and the Mothers Living and Learning need to know?
This question I should refer to the Mothers Living & Learning residents, as they will know best! If you are interested, get accepted to CSM, and complete the process for application, I will call you to arrange an interview. At the time of your interview, we will have a student give you a tour. Ask any questions you’d like at that time, I know they will tell you how it is!
Are there other campus resources for these single moms?
Yes! A multitude. Every person here on campus is very much invested in students and our single parent students’ success. I was hired as Director in February of this year given my experience in social work and counseling professions. In addition to doing proactive life skills and parenting workshops, I also meet one-on-one with students interested in learning more about community resources and finding support for single parents both on and off campus. Within our achievement center, we also offer tutoring, academic workshops like developing efficient study skills, discovering your learning style, as well as career counseling services.
Do you have any advice for a single parent interested in pursuing an education?
Best advice I could give is to tell you that you can do it, and don’t ever give up. Pursuing your college degree is the best decision you could ever make for your family, your community, and for yourself.
Anything else I need to know?
College of Saint Mary also offers life skills and parenting courses to the commuter students that reside off-campus. In an effort to provide support and opportunities for networking between single parent students, I also advise a student organization called Single Parent Success for Students (SPSS). This organization is an opportunity for students to advocate for single parent student needs on campus. All single parent students, whether living on campus within the Mothers Living & Learning community or commuting from off-campus, have much available to them in the way of resources and support at CSM.