"Daycares, Pro-Life Groups Help UB Students With Children"
While some undergrads are thinking about beer pong, others are thinking about the nutritional value of formula.
Cheryl Calire, director of pro-life activities at the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center in Buffalo, said the average age of girls who are pregnant and going to her center for help is in the early 20s.
"Some days I ask myself, ‘How long am I going to be able to do this for?'" said Suzanne Starr, a 28-year-old junior history major and a mother of two. "When am I going to have to drop out and just get a job?"
Starr is not alone in worrying about balancing school and having children, according to Calire.
"I have found that it's actually [in] the college age that this is becoming problematic," Calire said. "A woman might be really set on her career path and she goes to college; maybe it's her first time away from home or it's her first time having no rules or regulations. Maybe it happens with someone she just met or someone she's been with for a while, [but] sometimes she finds herself pregnant and doesn't know what to do."
A UB student who came to the university this year from another country went to the Outreach Center when she found out she was pregnant. She weighed out her options with the help of the center, and she decided to keep the baby. The student asked to remain anonymous.
"We absolutely encourage girls to stay in school," Calire said. "Sometimes, they feel they have to give up all of these things because of [pregnancy], and we try to show them they can get the support they need to continue their education."
Balancing education with parenting is a challenge, and UB has opened a daycare on each campus to acknowledge the struggles.
Starr is one of the six undergraduate students who currently enroll their children at the UB Childcare Center (UBCCC) on North Campus.
Starr's daily schedule revolves around her kids. She based her school schedule around others babysitting for her, and she only chose classes in between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. as a result.
"Next semester, [my husband and I are] allowed to leave the kids [at the UBCCC] Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., so we can take classes whenever during the day that we need to," Starr said. "That will really be helpful, and that's just an amazing benefit, and I don't know how many schools have [that option]. I don't think there's anything more useful than childcare to a student parent."
The UBCCC is both a daycare and a preschool for children six weeks to five years of age. The caretakers have mandatory degrees and are accredited by the National Association for Education of Young Children. They're also trained to care for and respect children of diverse ethnicities.
The UBCCC gives precedence to UB families, and offers a 10 percent discount to UB parents. Additionally, it offers a federal block grant for undergraduate students with an income of $40,000 or lower. This grant allows students with low incomes to pay approximately $15 per week.
The grant is no longer offered to graduate students. Sarah Lasher, a third-year law student and a mother of three, enrolls two of her children at the UBCCC on North Campus, but she is forced to take out loans to pay for the childcare.
"I don't think graduate students are any less in need," Lasher said. "Maybe even more so because tuition is even higher."
Despite not receiving any financial help, Lasher sees the center as a fantastic program that cares about her family.
Additionally, the Vice Dean of Student Affairs of the UB Law School allowed her to graduate in five years instead of three, even though the law school does not offer a part-time program.
"I talked to the vice dean at the law school, [and] I freaked out," Lasher said. "I was [confused as to] how can I take all these classes and still have time for my family, especially if you're due during a semester. You can still go just talk to your teachers, talk to your professors, talk to your advisor, [and] talk to the administrative staff. People have done it before, and they do it every semester, so stay in school. It's scary, but it works out. People are on your side."
Lasher says that the daycare center is another major factor that allows her to balance school with parenting. For instance, it allows her to go to the nursing room at the North Campus site to breast feed her child in between classes.
The center is not just for mothers. Pat Logan, director of the UBCCC, says there have been a couple single student fathers that enroll their children in the program.
Young fathers in the community are reaching out to both UB and the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center for help. The UB Students for Life, a club that provides free connections to agencies around Buffalo for young parents, and the St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center were able to throw a baby shower at UB for an 18-year-old boy. He was separated from his girlfriend and needed baby caretaking tools in his own home.
The UB Students for Life became a recognized club last May. Sara Buttitta, a senior business administration major and president and founder of the club, established connections with various agencies in Buffalo for parents to get free prenatal and postnatal care.
The club connects students to doctors involved in the pro-life movement, according to Buttitta. It provides services, such as sonograms and other prenatal care, to students who don't have sufficient health insurance. If students cannot afford an adoption, the club can connect them with lawyers who can take them through the process for free.
The club hasn't had any students come for help yet, but it is there for any student who needs the help, according to Buttitta.
"We're willing to keep it completely confidential, and even if people aren't sure and want to explore their options," Buttitta said. "[If] they haven't made up their mind yet, it's worth it for them to know what their options are. Any connection they need, we have for them. If they want to keep their baby, we have the ability to do that."