A purple and yellow papier-mâché butterfly floats from the ceiling, overlooking the children below. The bright walls support a long coat rack stuffed full of marshmallow-like winter coats with Disney-inspired backpacks and matching lunch boxes. The rooms are filled with children laughing and the undeniable smell of finger paint. Here, in the Early Childhood Center at Northern Kentucky University, NKU students can bring their children to ease the duties of being not just a student but also a parent.
It isn’t easy to pinpoint an NKU student parent. All students look similar rushing to and from class thinking, “I hope I make it to class on time,” or “I’m starving!” However, making it to class on time isn’t the biggest concern of a student parent. Finding childcare, understanding and support are all important factors facing a student parent.
At the ECC, NKU student parents can bring their children Monday through Friday depending on what slots are available. NKU student parents are given a discount: A part-time student pays $185 per week while a full-time student pays $175 a week.
Melanie Caldwell, director of the ECC, said NKU student parents should take advantage of this childcare option, since the ECC not only understands the life of a parent but also the life of a student.
Currently, the ECC accepts 2 to 12-year-olds but will begin accepting children as young as 12-months-old in fall 2012.
Caldwell said the ECC had previously been unable to accept children younger than two, since infant care takes up a lot of space. However, Caldwell said if student parents are seeking childcare for an infant, they should contact 4C for Children, the designated childcare referral agency for the region. Caldwell said 4C will arrange childcare options based on the location, price range and times of care needed by the parents.
Tara Farrar, sophomore geography major, understands the responsibility of being a student parent. Farrar is a mother of 12-year-old girl and a 2-year-old girl who juggles working full-time while attending classes.
“I stay busy and it’s tough,” Farrar said, “but in the end it will be worth it. I want to set a good example for my two girls.”
Farrar is not only a parent and student but is the president of the recently created student organization Parents Attending College. Currently the group has about 12 members, according to group member Mitzi Trentacoste, who is pursuing her master’s degree here at NKU. PAC began in fall 2011 to provide an environment for student parents.
“Our goal is to create a family away from family,” Trentacoste said. “We are open to anyone who is interested in joining.”
Student parents can join PAC through their OrgSync account.
Along with PAC and the ECC, NKU offers a program for student parents who qualify through the Student Achievement Center called Learning Experience and Parenting. LEAP is for low-income, student parents who cannot or are not receiving child support. Gail Messmer, director of LEAP, said students qualify for the program through the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program, or K-Tap, which provides childcare assistance.
Messmer said the goal of LEAP is to help students balance their school and K-tap requirements and to also break patterns of poverty.
Even if a student parent is not eligible for K-tap, Messmer said any student or student parent can stop by the Student Achievement Center for assistance.