Two single-moms balance school, work and parenting at Temple University

Student-parents discuss the challenges they face balancing childcare with coursework.

Imzadi Davis, a junior media studies and production major, sits on the steps of Annenberg Hall with her 4-year-old daughter Zyla on Sunday. | LUKE SMITH / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Life as a college student can be hectic, but for Imzadi Davis and Elisha Santiago, there is more than just homework to worry about. They have children.

Davis, a junior media studies and production major is the mother to 4-year-old Zyla, who will start kindergarten next fall. 

Santiago, a junior media studies and production major who works full-time, is the mother to her 5-year-old son Ian.

The women are among 13.6 million single-parents in America, according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Education report, but they continue to further their educational career at Temple University.

Finding the funds for their education alongside the cost of raising a child is a challenge.

“I don’t come from a wealthy family, so no one has money to help me with school,” Davis said. “I had to think not only about how this affected me but also my child.”   

“Timing is key” in balancing both parenthood and coursework and her job as co-host of “We Need to Talk,” TUTV’s first all-female talk show, Davis added. She also She chooses her classes around Zyla’s schedule, not her own.

To ease the financial burdens on single parents, the U.S. Department of Education awards schools grants through the Child Care Access Means Parents In School program. Colleges can use the money to subsidize child care costs for students eligible for the Federal Pell Grant, provide child care through campus-based programs or outsource within the community. Temple received nearly $200,000 in 2018 to cover the costs of day care for award recipients. Temple sends children of students to Montgomery Early Learning Centers facility. The closest one is in Center City. The Department of Education issues the grant in four-year cycles, so the program could run at Temple through 2022. 

Eligible student-parents must have children 5 years old or younger. Students with children older than 5 years old cannot benefit from the program.

Santiago prioritizes her job over school to fund her and her son’s livelihood.

“Some people get to schedule their work schedule around their school schedule,” Santiago said. “I am the opposite of that.” 

Davis and Santiago met at the Community College of Philadelphia in 2014. Sharing a major and the responsibility of parenting, they became close friends.

“She is someone I can relate to and vent to,” Santiago said. “We even have a class together this semester.” 

Santiago found out she was pregnant with Ian in 2012, the summer after she graduated high school. Her pregnancy changed her college plans. She originally intended to attend school in California, but decided to enroll at CCP instead.

“I wasn’t going to stop,” Santiago said. “I’m still on that road. It’s just a lot harder, especially when you have a kid.” 

Santiago now lives in an apartment with Ian. She worked two jobs to pay the rent when she first moved.

Davis found out she was pregnant with Zyla shortly after starting CCP and gave birth 10 days before her 19th birthday. 

“I didn’t quit,” Davis said. “I kept going and [it’s] the reason why I graduated.” 

CCP provides student-parents with a day care program that offers day care services for children up to 5 years old. 

Davis did not use CCP’s program because her mom was able to help her out with child care, but other student-parents told her positive things about it, she said.

“What sets them apart is their drop-in services,” Davis added. “If a parent really needed a sitter that day, they could drop their kid off.”

Other universities, like the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State and Rutgers University, have on-campus day care programs for student-parents. Temple provided a grant-funded, on-campus day care facility in the 1970s but does not anymore.

While at Temple, Davis’ and Santiago’s kids attend separate day care facilities that both provide bussing to and from the facilities. 

Santiago came to Temple in 2016 as part of the university’s dual admissions program with CCP and Davis transferred after earning an associate’s degree in mass media in Spring 2018. 

“Coming to Temple, I knew that I would have to really be focused and work even harder between school and being a mother,” Davis added.

Davis commutes to Temple from Mount Airy, which is about a 20-minute drive, after getting Zyla ready and dropped off at preschool. 

Aside from child care and academics, Davis stresses the importance of taking time for herself when she can find it.

“A mom who doesn’t take care of herself is no good for her children,” Davis said.

On these occasions, or if she is too busy, Davis’s mom helps her out. 

“My mom is my No. 1 supporter,” Davis said. “If my classes run late, she will pick her up from day care.” 

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