Being a student parent at EMU is a worthwhile challenge, filled with both joy and stress. Two EMU students with children have shared their stories. Sophomore Kristy Wertz is a Nursing major with one son named Parker and another child due in May.
First-Year Jonathan Gale Towles is an International Business major and has a son, Digory Gale, that shares names with him and a character from C.S. Lewis’ “The Magician’s Nephew.”
Wertz and her husband are not originally from the Harrisonburg area and moved here over two years ago. Since all of Wertz’ family lives in Pittsburgh, she is not able to receive much support from them, though even from afar they offer encouragment. Wertz says that her biggest support as a student parent is her husband. “He understands that I need study time and helps with dinner, cleaning, bedtime, and all things Parker.”
Though, Wertz does not like to place all of her attention on her studies, no matter how willing her husband is to help. She admits that sometimes she just has to put school aside and focus on her family, because that is what is most important to her.
Towles would agree that family comes first. When discussing his reasons for pursuing a college degree, Towles talked a lot about how it had to do with his son. He wanted to both give his son greater opportunities and to be an example by paving the way that college is a possibility. Towles explained that he wants to be able to say to his son, “Well, I did it so you can too.”
Towles also is able to spend more time with his son now that he is at EMU. Before moving to Harrisonburg from Lancaster, Towles worked in construction. While he was doing that, he would leave for work before his son woke up in the morning, and not get back until an hour before Digory’s bedtime.
Now, though, Towles says that he’s about to spend about three to four hours with his son everyday. His wife is also primarily a stay at home mom, working part time jobs sometimes. Towles likes this arrangement better than when he was working full-time because he feels that he and his wife are now able to have a lot more input into their son’s life.
And while one of the biggest struggles for Towles is finding time for schoolwork amidst his increased time with his son, he would not trade the time with Digory. “Some of the biggest joys are the smallest moments,” Towles said, explaining how it’s just the everyday encounters with his son that really make being a student parent worthwhile.
EMU as an organization does not offer support to parents seeking an education here, even though the people – students and profesors – stand along- side student parents. Neither Towles nor Wertz are receiving financial aid from the University as it relates to their student parent status. Also, EMU has no daycare support for student parents. “I truly wish that there was a daycare on campus,” said Wertz. “This would help the student parents as well as staff.”
Wertz says that she has suggested this idea to the SGA and hopes they will help make it happen.
Wertz also shared that she has received support from professors as far as encouragement and daycare advice. Towles explained that the culture of EMU is a supportive one for parents pursuing further education.
“The University does not offer support at first glance,” Towles said, but went on to say that the people at EMU value family and because of that he feels perfectly comfortable bringing his son to campus and never has trouble finding a trustworthy sitter from within this community.
EMU is certainly not exclusive to 18 to 22 year olds without dependents as it might have been in previous years. EMU usually encourages and accommodates diversity on campus however there is always room for improvement.
-Bethannie Parks, Style Editor
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