A program developed by a Temple alumna helps mothers obtain degrees.
Syreeta Martin wakes up every morning and gets her two children ready for daycare. She goes to her classes and then to work at Student Financial Services, where she is permitted to bring her kids.
When she goes home, she is busy changing her 9-month-old’s diapers and helping her 4-year-old with homework. The kids go to bed at 9 p.m., and she can finally do her schoolwork.
Martin, a junior public relations major, is one of five student-mothers currently involved in Temple’s new Mommy Grads program. Mommy Grads is open to any single mother currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree.
Jamie Gauthier, a Temple alumna, created the program this semester after receiving a grant from Women for Social Innovation.
“I feel like [student-mothers make up] a type of population that really needs a strong support system and more attention,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier had her first son when she was in graduate school, so she understands what student-mothers go through when they are working toward their degrees.
“I think it’s just finding the time to be great in both areas, being a mother and a student,” Gauthier said.
Mommy Grads will help address many of the common issues student mothers face. The program will host workshops on time management, budgeting and study skills.
Each participant is assigned a mentor who is currently a working mother. These mentors will be able to encourage, as well as offer advice to participants based on their own experiences.
Gauthier said each mentor is obligated to spend five hours a month with her student, two of which must entail face-to-face contact.
“All the mentors seem to be very excited,” Gauthier said. “They all have really personal stories about why they wanted to be involved.”
The mentors can give advice about career goals and help them network with people in their fields.
Since many student-mothers struggle with their finances, Gauthier said she and her team will help connect students with different resources for healthcare, childcare and financial aid.
One financial aid resource all Mommy Grads participants will be eligible for is a $400 stipend each semester. The money can go toward books, daycare costs, transportation or any of the typical expenses that parents and college students encounter.
Gauthier received the money for the stipends from a $15,000 grant she received from the Women for Social Innovation. She won the Turning Point Action Award after submitting her idea for the Mommy Grads program to the organization.
The money allows her the opportunity for as many as 12 participants to be enrolled in the program.
In order to be considered, an applicant must be a single mother pursing a bachelor’s degree. Gauthier said she prefers students to be full-time but is willing to work with part-time students as well.
“I want to work with people who want to work with me,” Gauthier said.
Martin is looking forward to receiving career advice and stipends for books, but she’s most excited to meet mothers going though the same experiences, she said.
“I’m a college student, but my mind is nowhere near the mind of a typical college student,” Martin said. “Sometimes it can get really lonely, like you’re the only one going through this.”
Gauthier said she felt an underlying alienation when she was in school.
“You have a different focus and different issues,” she said, “and I think that makes you feel lonely.”
Martin left her family in Pittsburgh to come to Temple and said she misses that support system.
Gauthier said she knew the opportunity to meet other mothers would draw student-mothers like Martin to the program and said she hopes they can feel as if they have a community to rely on.
“Hopefully,” Martin said, “[the Mommy Grad mentors] can be my second home.”
Rebecca Hale can be reached at email@example.com.