Wearing two hats

Leeta-Rose Ballester

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I was up at 5 a.m., racing against the internal alarm clock of my two kids, trying to tackle the ominous stack of homework that lay before me.

As soon as I gathered my thoughts and began to write, the baby cried. My heart sank as I surveyed the situation.

Two laptops and a pile of books staring me down, and my hair and clothes a mess. I started feeling sorry for myself, but quickly remembered that I am certainly not the only one trying to balance school and family.

Fazila Nuristani an academic adviser at San Jose City College, said that the school CARE program offers gas cards, meal tickets, textbook vouchers, and help with child care to students who have children and meet income requirements.

“They love it, especially the gas card and the meal tickets. They have children and work and might not have time to make meals,” said Nuristani.

Nuristani said that the CARE program served 63 students in 2010-11.

This seems like a small part of the parent population at SJCC, and I was curious to find out where other students are finding support.

Amelia Garcia, 32, a business major and single mother of three, said she was surprised that she did not qualify for CARE.

“I only have one income and I have three children plus myself to support,” Garcia said. “I did, however, apply for FAFSA and have received money to go to school. This has been a big help to me to pay for my schooling. Before applying for FAFSA I had stopped taking classes because I couldn’t afford them. I am very thankful that I can continue to take classes.”

Garcia said she is lucky to have great support from her family, which watches her children while she is at school.

“I take evening classes and online class to help me offset my time away from home,” Garcia said. “Homework and studying at home can be difficult due to constant interruptions at home and helping my children with their homework.”

Michelle Allen, 32, a medical science major, also is a mother of three. Her daughter is 3 years old and her two school-age sons are autistic.
Allen said that her A average would not be possible without the support of her husband who stays at home.

“I work full time and carry a full schedule of 14 units,” Allen said. “Studying is hard sometimes, but with the help of my husband, I am able to complete my assignments. He makes sure that I have quiet time when I get home from work, so that I can focus on my classwork.”

Rose Acosta, 46, a social work major, said she waited until her six children had gotten older to come back to school.

“I have taken a few classes over the years while raising them but found it too difficult to juggle everything, so I decided to wait,” Acosta said.
Acosta said that her children like the fact that their mother is in school.

“It encourages them to do their homework because mom is doing hers,” Acosta said.

Each of these women face different challenges and have different goals, but they share some commonalities. They have made the choice to come back to school to fulfill their dreams, and they make it work even when it is tough. So hats off to you student moms, and happy Mother’s Day!