As a single mother and full-time UCLA student, I find balancing parental responsibilities and academics to be a rewarding but challenging experience.
Years ago, I decided to continue my education to provide a stable environment for my 16-year-old son, Miguel, and my 11-year-old daughter, Aurora. In 2011, I transferred from Rio Hondo College to UCLA in the hopes that my children would understand that regardless of age, gender and socio-economic status, everyone deserves and has the right to attend college.
Thankfully, I was able to successfully integrate into the UCLA community because I had a thirst for knowledge and passion for higher education and student social justice issues. But after balancing my responsibilities as both a student and parent for more than three years, I realized the key to success for nontraditional undergraduates is to be aware of their resources.
For instance, financial instability is one of the main issues affecting the parenting-student population, and many other traditional and nontraditional students for that matter. Based on my experience working with other parenting-students, unguided financial struggles can affect mental health, making the task of balancing academics and parental responsibilities more overwhelming.
In my own case, even with financial aid and compensation from work-study, my family and I still find ourselves in financial need. But knowing my resources has helped alleviate some of the stress and limitations.
My first support system when navigating this campus was the Bruin Resource Center. The BRC was able to provide adequate guidance for social service benefits like those offered by the CalFresh Program, which helps you purchase nutritious food for your family.
Interns working at the BRC’s Students with Dependents Program also provided me with great support and mentorship. The program was created to provide support and advocacy for parenting-students, helping our population succeed as both parents and scholars. It is our hope that this support system continues to develop and flourish.
But frankly, when I first enrolled at UCLA, the resources available to parenting-students were insufficient. I, along with a group of other parenting-students, created, implemented and incorporated new resources while protecting the ones that already existed. This is why I became a Students with Dependents intern.
For me, the first step to embracing my identity as a parenting-student came with creating my own community cohort and building upon the resources available to us. While working as a Students with Dependents peer mentor, I realized having a group of parenting-students you can relate to and with whom you can share your scholarly pride is significant and unique.
You need to depend on other parenting-students, and on the resources around you, to succeed both as a student and parent.
The resources that nontraditional students have created, and the work we have done to create them, should be a source of pride for our community. They signify the legacy of support that nontraditional students have actively built for the UCLA community.
And these contributions should remind parenting-students in particular that they should feel proud of who they are and where they’re coming from. That’s the only way they will know where they need to go when they begin navigating this campus.
On behalf of the parenting-students at UCLA, welcome.
Garcia is a fourth-year applied linguistics student.