For Temple senior Charles Dixon, there is no real start or end to his day. Rather, it seems to be continuous hours of work, school and fatherhood.
“A week to me is kind of like a day,” said Dixon, a full-time Temple student who has a 5-year-old daughter, Cianni. “I work from 11[p.m.] to 7[a.m.], so my days don’t ever really start or end. They just kind of blend in with each other. That’s how fast my life moves because of what I do.”
And he does a lot. Aside from taking his daughter to school, studying and working, Dixon runs his own business, World Heritage Outreach, designing flyers, Web sites and promoting events. Dixon also coaches basketball on Tuesdays and Fridays for an after-school program.
Like Dixon, many student-parents feel an overwhelming sense of stress. Many student-parents manage a full work schedule and a full-time class load. Despite these obstacles many of them have been able to excel academically.
Kathryn D’Angelo, associate dean of students believes that the responsibilities student-parents have helps them to adapt to the work load.
“I’ve seen students that despite everything that they have and how far they’re stretched … they’re outperforming their peers who have far less responsibilities in their life, but I think they’re so used to juggling so much … that they give 100 percent.”
In 1999-2000, 13.3 percent of the nation’s 16.5 million college students were single parents, up from 7 percent in 1992-1993, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Temple does not report how many undergraduate student-parents are enrolled at the University. Pell-eligible Temple student-parents registered for at least 12 credits may apply for childcare assistance made available by a grant from the federal government.
Temple works in conjunction with Family Care Solutions to administer the Child Care Access Means Parents In School program. The CCAMPIS grant gives assistance to student-parents paying for child care. Students may be awarded up to $5,000 to help cover the cost of child care during the academic year. For the 2004-2005 academic year, 19 of the 23 recipients of the CCAMPIS grant at Temple were single parents.
CCAMPIS was established by Family Care Solutions Inc. as a means to help students stay in school by providing assistance in child care.
“[The students are] very appreciative because it takes a load off of them financially because the child care is paid for,” said Sherrill Mosee, president of Family Care Solutions. “We pay anywhere between maybe $100 to $170 a week for child care.”
FCS is supported by local businesses and grants that allow students in need to obtain child care. Temple is one of 10 colleges and universities in southeastern Pennsylvania that offer the CCAMPIS grant.
Temple senior Rasheedah Phillips is a 20-year-old mother of Iyonna, her 6-year-old daughter. A recipient of the CCAMPIS grant, she also juggles life as a college student, single mother, worker and organizational leader.
Phillips said she works two jobs to take care of her living expenses.
“It was plenty of times where I just wanted to drop out,” Phillips said. “Just kind of get a job, just do it from there. I just kept going. It was just really hard.”
Phillips said the idea of going to college after getting pregnant at 14 seemed unfathomable to many.
“In high school, I didn’t get too much encouragement, and I think that has a big effect on teen parents,” she said. “They’re not encouraged to go further.”
The lack of support Phillips received in high school has sparked a passion to work with other teen parents. She has a 4.0 GPA, is in various honor societies, and is the co-founder of the school-based organization Gate Keepers. Phillips will graduate next month after just three years. She has gained acceptance to Temple’s Beasley School of Law. But, like most college students, she is somewhat uncertain of what she wants to do in the future.
“I really don’t know if I want to be a lawyer anymore. I think even if I don’t end up becoming a lawyer … the education that I get in law school will be very valuable and important to me,” she said.
Dixon also experienced hesitance, mostly on the part of his family, when they found out he was about to become a father.
“They were disappointed,” he said. “I think the person that took it the hardest was my grandmother because she raised me.”
Yet Dixon has taken some of that doubt and used it as motivation for excellence.
“People will tell me that you can’t do this, you can’t do that,” Dixon said, “and I’ll write it down and I’ll put it up on a wall and I’ll use that as my motivation to do exactly what they told me I couldn’t do.”
Motivation has been a strong factor in Phillips’ life as well.
“I feel [pressure] all the time,” Phillips said. “It guides a lot of my decisions and even for my daughter. I want to set the example for her. That’s what propels me to keep on forward, even when sometimes I don’t know if this is what I want to do.”
Dixon said the challenge sometimes lies in dealing with professors.
“The thing that’s the most difficult is when I get teachers that don’t understand my lifestyle … sometimes I get teachers that don’t understand what I go through,” he said.
Having such a lifestyle can take its toll on any parent’s relationship with their child. Both Dixon and Phillips said they do not get to spend as much time as they would like to with their child.
“It really hurts me to my heart sometimes that I can’t spend the quality time with my daughter that I want to,” Dixon said. “Because when she’s there, her daddy is always busy. She’s getting to the point now when she kind of notices that I don’t spend as much with her.”
Having more time at home with her child is one of the reasons Phillips chose to graduate in three years as opposed to four. Still, she faces the potential task of completing law school in the near future.
Phillips and Dixon have not placed pity on themselves or their situations. Instead, they have embraced adversity.
“Even though being a teen parent is hard and going to college as a mother was really hard, I think I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through these experiences,” Phillips said. “I wouldn’t be as motivated as I am right now. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Dixon feels the same.
“Although sometimes I wish I could have been a regular college student, I don’t think I would have had it any other way,” he said.
Renita Burns can be reached at Renita.Burns@temple.edu.