For many parents at Dixie State University, being a student while taking care of a child’s life can put a spin on school, social life and family time.
Kyla Mercier, a senior integrated studies major from St. George, said she understands the struggle of parenting and being a student. Mercier has one child, is a single parent and is currently affiliated with the Free2Feed organization located in St. George.
Free2Feed is a non-profit organization that empowers and supports mothers. The organization offers breastfeeding classes, motherhood education, babysitting and joint activities to build and support parents, such as a 5-kilometer on Oct. 29.
When Mercier began attending Dixie State University, she said she had an eight-week-old baby and found it difficult only having access to two mother rooms, one located on the fifth floor of the Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons and another at the Russel C. Taylor Health Science Center. These rooms are specifically for pumping breast milk in privacy and are more sanitary than a restroom. Mercier said she wishes more rooms were provided so mothers could feel comfortable and have privacy to take care of their babies.
Mercier said she has worked to build a Motherhood Support Group at DSU to help mothers get through school and still be active parents. This group is currently not chartered by DSU because too few full-time students serve on the group’s council, but Mercier said she believes it can help parents stay in school.
Although Mercier said she still finds it a little difficult to tend her daughter and go to school, she is grateful to the Free2Feed organization for helping her as a parent and as a student.
Free2Feed provided Mercier with the knowledge she is not the only one in her situation, introduced her to other moms she trusts with her baby, helped her make new friends, and encouraged her to be more involved in the community while learning how to be a better mother, Mercier said.
Mercier said being the parent of a toddler and being a full-time student with 14 credits can be difficult and busy. While Mercier attends school, she said she has her ex-husband take care of their child.
Anne Pinegar, a sophomore nursing major from Provo, said she is grateful for the way DSU faculty deal with her being a parent. She said her teachers are considerate and reasonable about her raising her child as well as going to school. She said she hopes other student parents can feel the same way she does about her teachers.
“Being a parent and going back to school is difficult and a lot of work,’’ Pinegar said. “I don’t think others see how difficult it can be.”
Pinegar said she is getting a better education to better both her life and her daughter’s life. Pinegar said she finds it hard to balance time between school and being a mom but said she always helps her daughter first and then finds time for school.
Parents who have younger children such as infants and toddlers also have a different schedule from parents whose children are older.
Craig Bohannan, a senior criminal justice major from Peoria, Illinois, is attending school to help him progress in his career as a chief firefighter. Bohannan said he is the father of three children, all of whom are in grade school, and said he doesn’t have enough time in the day for both his activities and his family. Bohannan said he gave up hunting, fishing and hanging out with his buddies on the weekends to spend more time with his kids as well as to complete school assignments.
Bohannan said his father told him, “You better keep your ass in school. I don’t care what it is, get a college degree of any kind.”
He said these words still ring true and motivate him to continue his schooling. Though Bohannan has to sacrifice a lot to juggle the time for his family, money and work, he said he knows going to school is the right decision.
“Without the support of my wife, I would not be able to do this,” Bohannan said. “When I’m away with work and school, she has to pick up the slack and play both roles as a parent.”
Bohannan said he strives to be a good example for his kids, not just as a parent and husband but as a student.
Meetings for the Free2Feed organization are held Mondays from 10-11:30 a.m. at 224 S. Valley View Drive in St. George.