The wisdom of the Nigerian proverb, "It takes the village to raise a child" isn't lost on all modern American families.
SMC has a small yet determined population of full-time students who are also full-time parents. In addition to their parental and student obligations, many of them also work. With financial assistance and help from friends, a handful of students are taking advantage of what the village of SMC has to offer and it a success
Chris Callas is a husband and father of two, ages 5 and 1. He is also finishing his last semester of the nursing program. He stood out at the Bundy campus with his 1-yearr-old daughter nestled heart-to-heart with him in her baby sling.
"In the beginning, we were able to manage alright, but it gets harder," Callas said. "We had our daughter during the end of the second semester and there just wasn't enough care to go around."
Callas is in the middle of a preceptorship in the cardiothoracic intensive care unit at University of California, Los Angeles. The preceptorship requires Callas to work 100 hours per month at the hospital. Callas also works as an administrative care partner at UCLA, a position he has held since 1993.
With Callas' wife pursuing her post doctorate degree and his own reduced work hours, they have "had to take out a ton of loans" said
Callas. At this point "the money's drying up," he said.
Callas expressed immense gratitude for the efforts of SMC's financial aid department, and particularly for Damon Mcleod of the Financial Aid Office, who Callas described as "an incredible and supportive resource who goes above and beyond to help the students out." Callas was able to secure grant money allocated for nursing students.
"You really have to make this program a priority in your life, and when I say priority, I mean the priority," Callas said, acknowledging that the hardest part of his schooling has been the strain it has put on his family.
"A lot of the time I'm not mentally and emotionally there because I'm so caught up in all the things I have to do to be successful," Callas said. "Something has to give and unfortunately, it's been my family."
Whenever he gets the feeling that he is in over his head, it is the love for, and from, his family that keeps him moving forward.
"You make it happen, I'm just not willing to contemplate any other alternative," he said.
Deborah Gun is pursuing her degree in early childhood education. Every morning before she leaves for class, she makes sure that both she and her 8-year-old son, Laqota, have their homework assignments in order.
"My education has been extremely important to me," Gun said. "It empowers me… and it makes me evolve."
Gun enrolled at SMC five years ago.
"I felt like my life was stagnant and I needed a change," she said. "The path I was going wasn't working for me anymore."
Recalling how she felt that first semester and what inspired her to continue on, she said, "I kept hearing all this positive feedback and I thought, you know what, I like this."
Gun says she wishes she were in a position to continue her studies without interruption, but time and finances have forced her to take more than one semester off. She calls her roommate her "saving grace" because she rearranged her schedule around Gun's and Laqota's in order to pick him up from school when Gun has class.
Gun also credits the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) and Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education (CARE) programs, which provide book and meal vouchers as well as reimbursement for childcare and transportation to school, for putting her education within reach.
"If it wasn't for that program, I wouldn't be able to go to school… they've been extremely supportive and helpful," Gun said.
With continued support, Gun hopes to receive her associate's degree and land a position as a special education teacher when she graduates. Her renewed enthusiasm for school has been contagious. She says Laqota is already telling her he wants to go to college.
"When you have children, you have to be positive because your children model what they see," she said. "My son is my drive."
Along with EOPS and CARE, SMC provides abundant resources for student parents. The Associated Students Childcare Fund offers up to $400 per month toward childcare costs for single parents with dependent children younger than six years of age. Jenny Trickey, director of the Childcare Fund, says there are no students currently taking advantage of this subsidy. She says the money is available, there's no deadline to apply, and the paperwork takes five minutes to fill out. For more information, you may call 310-434-8526.
There is also a $10,000 scholarship available for student mothers at scholarshipsformoms.net. Students may submit an online application by Friday, May 14.
Raising a child can be daunting enough without the hectic pressure of schooling. Fortunately for SMC students, the college can step in to be a part of your "village."