She is sitting on her bed. Her bed is covered with nothing but textbooks, pens, papers and binders. Her floor is covered with clothes and shoes. Her dresser is full of baby milk, pampers, bottles and other baby materials.
Her room is loud. Loud with a child’s scream.
“Hush,” she screams.
The baby gets louder.
“You see, this is what I am talking about,” she says, slamming her notebook on the bed and picking up the baby to rock him to sleep.
Pershunda Buchanan is a 21-year-old college student from Columbus, Miss. She is currently enrolled as a junior at University of Mississippi, where she is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in psychology. Her goals are to graduate from the University of Mississippi and start her career as a detective and start her own child-care facility.
Great ambitions for a young college student, right?
But her life is more complicated than the average college student’s experience.
Buchanan is a young mother. Not only is she a young mother, but a young, single mother.
There are many young mothers who are also college students and who are dealing with raising a child by themselves while attending college.
“It can be sometimes stressful, but I have a set schedule that we follow,” Buchanan says. “He goes to daycare while I’m in class. I go get him after class and spend the rest of the day with him, which includes eating, playing, watching TV and reading around 7:30 p.m. Bath time is no later than 8:30 p.m., and he is asleep.”
“That’s when I complete any homework assignments, housework, cook, and shower and get our clothes out. I will go to bed around 11:30 p.m. or 12 a.m. each night.”
“Yes, it is hard,” Buchanan says as she lay her 17-month-old son down to sleep. “And sometimes the schedule does not go as planned, but it is doable.”
Buchanan is not alone.
As Felesha Jefferson prepares dinner for herself and her daughter, she is on the Internet completing homework assignments for her classes.
Jefferson is also a young, single mother who attends college. She is a 25-year-old college graduate and student. She graduated in 2010 from East Mississippi Community College in Columbus, Miss., where she earned her associate’s degree in liberal arts. She also graduated in 2013 from Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminology. Now, she attends a graduate program at University of Alabama. She lives in Starkville, Miss., with her 5-year-old daughter.
Jefferson endures the hardships that she has to go through as a young, single mother in college.
“I had to self-discipline myself and realize what was most important in my life, which was my child,” Jefferson says. “I had to make many sacrifices. It wasn’t about me anymore, it was always about my child and becoming and being the best mother I can be.”
Self-discipline is what Jefferson says.
It is doable, is what Buchanan says.
But do other mothers besides Buchanan and Jefferson share the same confidence that they have?
Some may not.
Some may have it easier than both of these young mothers.
Some may have it harder.
Some need another person to talk with, so they take counseling to help them with the challenges they face as young, single mothers in college.
Craig Watson, a licensed professional counselor at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss., recounts meeting some of the young, single parents who attend the university.
“We had some single parents come in to receive services,” Watson says. “It’s just what you would expect, and that is being overwhelmed with managing school, parenting, some working as well, and trying to manage it all.”
As a counselor, Watson’s job is to listen and help students with any problems that they are facing in their lives as college students. It is his job to give advice to the students, and he gives great advice to young, single mothers who are attending college.
“I think the first thing is to utilize as many community resources as you can as available to that person,” Watson explains. “Sometimes they have family members or community program accesses that are available. Organizations are very important as well.”
He goes into specific details about the university offering assistance for these mothers.
“I think that this university has a good set-up that makes assistance for single parents possible, such as the daycare here and the apartments that are available for these young, single parents.”
The university daycare is a good option for many single mothers on campus. It reflects the attention given to children who spend part of the day there.
For instance, there is a hallway filled with pictures of little children’s drawings on the wall. To the left, there is a small room with little children under 4 years of age lying on cots.
There is a little girl trying to get out of her bed.
“Lay down,” says the director of the day-care, standing at the door watching over the children.
The little girl lies down.
A little boy is playing with his shoe. He doesn’t know that the director is watching him.
The little boy stops and closes his eyes.
Notice how these kids are obeying the administrator?
Some of the credit goes to Child Parent Development Center at Mississippi University for Women.
The child-care facility is a great source for young, single moms while they are in classes, doing homework or other activities on campus. Courtney Mackey, a student worker at the center and also a single parent, explains how this child-care facility is a great advantage for single mothers and their children.
“They are open at 7:30 a.m., and they close at 5:30 p.m.,” Mackey says. “They have observation rooms, so if you are between classes and want to check up, you can come and sit in the observation room and watch your kid.”
The child-care facility is preparing these children very well to go to school when they leave there.
“My daughter goes here, and she is 2-years-old,” Mackey says.
“She is already counting to 10, and she has known her ABCs within three weeks that she was here. When she first came, she was kind of shy, but now she is yelling at kids and very outspoken.”
It looks as if the day-care is training these children to strive towards success like their mothers.
“It is amazing,” Mackey says.
Even though the university provides a daycare option, having the finances to pay for college and daycare is vital.
How do single mothers manage to pay for school?
“I get SNAP, which is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Buchanan says. “It is a program that gives food stamps to low-income families.”
Buchanan also receives extra help from other resources, as well as from the university that she attends.
“I get awarded for financial aid, as well as Pell Grants. I have three scholarships that my school awarded me with to help me pay for school.”
“Oh, and the other parent pays child support.”
Mackey explains how she manages with financial issues.
“I receive TANF, which is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and they pay for my daughter’s child-care,” Mackey says. “Also, if you qualify for Pell Grant, you can get a work-study job.”
“What the assistance does not pay, I can work it off here as a student worker. They just help pay the difference.”
Jefferson says that it is hard.
“Yes, it is hard, but with God, family and prayer, anything is possible.”
As Buchanan sits in her bed, she stares at her son while he is asleep.
“You see, college and responsibilities can both be defeated with a determined mind-set.”
Finally, she can complete her homework.
Sidebar: If anyone would like to learn more information about how to balance single parenting and the responsibilities of schoolwork, MUW’s counseling center is here to help. Please visit the website at http://web3.muw.edu/centers/counseling or contact the center by phone at (662) 329-7748. In addition, the Child Parent Development Center at MUW is available for assistance. The center can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (662) 329-7196. For extra assistance such as TANF or SNAP services in the state of Mississippi, please visit the state website at http://www.mdhs.state.ms.us/.