By Matisse Sanchez, Mar. 15, 2022
As students return to campus, student parents are being greeted with more resources after years of Cal Poly Pomona taking baby steps to support them.
During the pandemic, student parents pushed for more campus resources to be made available and, in some cases, created those resources themselves.
“The university system was set up for people not like us,” said Parenting Broncos Club President Sara Carrillo. “We’re still expected to submit the assignments at the same quality as others, all in the meantime we’re raising a human being.”
Carrillo co-founded the Parenting Broncos Club with Jessica Coronel, Bianca Macias and Priscilla Munoz during the pandemic for student parents who were having a hard time finding a safe space. The club allows parents to come and share their unique experiences, provide resources for one another and raise awareness for their needs.
“The pandemic really set a spotlight for the student parenting community,” Carrillo said. “We’re different; we have different challenges, and we have to start speaking up for ourselves.”
Carrillo not only found herself in need of a support group but a place that would help address disadvantages that student parents like herself face at the university.
Finding the time to be in school and keep up with homework assignments is time-consuming all while having to take care of children.
Carrillo worked as a co-author on an article published in the Planning for Higher Education Journal, finding that while student parents were not only highly motivated to continue higher education, they were lacking in the support from universities.
Finding proper classes that tailor to a parent’s schedule can be difficult especially with classes being inaccessible at the times that student parents need. Searching for instructors who are lenient and allow room for those who cannot keep up with a normal syllabus can prove much harder.
Marisa Aurajo, a psychology student and club treasurer, expressed her difficulty balancing and meeting deadlines when she first had her child.
“I remember when I first started, there was a teacher that I had and she automatically said, ‘if you can’t meet deadlines, maybe this isn’t the class for you’ and I immediately got discouraged,” Aurajo said. “I didn’t even want to tell her that I’m pregnant.”
Without the proper resources and provisions they need, student parents find themselves struggling by themselves. That was until clubs, such as the Parenting Bronco Club, and other accessible spaces have grown at CPP.
“A lot of times we don’t know what support we can have, or resources that are available to us,” said Damaris Carmona-Raya, a nutrition student. “Even just acknowledgment that helps us understand that they’re there for us.”
The Parenting Bronco Club isn’t the only accessible space on campus but, as CLASS Interim Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Student Success Brianne Dávila explained, the university is finding new ways to support. Places such as the lactation room in the Womxn’s Resource Center and on-campus childcare is open for anyone needing support.
“If student parents are comfortable sharing with their faculty that they’re student parents, then I’d encourage them to do it early,” Dàvila says. “I think it’s important context for faculty to know. Life happens in a way that’s different for student parents.”
In the Planning for Higher Education article, which Dàvila also co-wrote with other Cal Poly Pomona community members, one of the biggest insecurities that student parents faced was the inability to obtain childcare when school was in session. Colleges and universities have done little to create an inclusive space for student parents.
However, in the 2018-2019 academic year, the university obtained a grant that allowed a space for children to feel welcome and for student parents to feel comfortable bringing in their children.
Thanks to the new Bronco Family Space that has opened in the library, parents such as Carrillo are now welcome to bring their children to a safe space while they study and finish some work.
“I am so happy that they have it there,” Carrillo said. “I took my son there, he loved it.” She said how much he was looking forward to coming back to doing his homework there and how sad she is that she is only getting to experience it for a year.
Student parents seeking campus resources can join the Parenting Bronco Club, find information on Cal Poly Pomona’s Children’s Center and visit the Bronco Family Space, located on the third floor of the library.
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