UCLA student parents discuss inclusivity and accessibility to resources
(Ko Carlos/Daily Bruin)
As a mother of three, Evelyn Martinez has to juggle being a parent alongside the typical challenges of demanding coursework, engagement in extracurriculars and acclimation to the quarter system.
Student parents must also confront the barriers and stigmatization of having a dependent while in higher education, said Martinez, a third-year sociology student. At UCLA, a resource for student parents to seek community is within the university’s Students with Dependents Program, which is designed to offer support to caregiving Bruins.
Schinal Harrington, student program coordinator of the Students with Dependents Program, said the program offers resources to alleviate financial burden – such as stipends for diapers, wipes and book loan programs – along with academic advising and mentorship. Harrington, a third-year sociology and African American studies student, added that the program accepts students of various identities, including formerly incarcerated students, students without legal status, LGBTQ+ students and more.
“When we’re talking about inclusivity, we (student parents) feel a privilege being here at UCLA,” Harrington said. “We earned our seats, we’re proud to sit in those seats, but we should have the access that everyone else has.”
However, the implementation of these resources seems to be more complex, Martinez said. As a student without legal status, Martinez said she appreciates the community that Students with Dependents has created but finds the university’s resources to be inequitable.
“Some of the resources that they have, because they’re federally funded, they can’t give them to me because I don’t qualify,” Martinez said. “The resources are very limited because of other identities that are not taken into consideration.”
Christopher Nellum, executive director of Education Trust–West – an organization that advocates for equity and accessibility in education – said he thinks there are three main ways to make higher education more accessible for student parents: ensuring students are aware of resources, granting them priority registration and implementing accessible child care.
Student parents at UCLA receive priority enrollment, Harrington said, adding that it is one of the resources Students with Dependents promotes. UCLA also offers some child care services for parenting students.
Martinez said as a commuter student, she is unable to benefit from the child care services that the university offers and departmental events such as Career Week.
“I do feel like a lot of the time, those events are more geared towards people that dorm there, or even younger students like freshmen and sophomores, not so much the nontraditional like myself,” Martinez said. “I think that’s one of the times when I do feel like, ‘Man, I don’t belong here.’”
Martinez added that in her experience at UCLA, she has only encountered one faculty member who included a statement about student parents bringing their children to class on their syllabus.
Nellum said that improving the visibility of student parents would improve the campus atmosphere for the overall student population. Martinez said it is important to remember that parents can also be students and that recognition would be a big step.
“We’re just here to have the same opportunity,” Martinez said. “We’re just trying to get a degree.”