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Balancing school and parenthood: first-time fair seeks to connect students with resources
Dereka Swaim and Amy Gideon enrolled in school later in life, and now want to help other parents with finding resources.

Balancing school and parenthood: first-time fair seeks to connect students with resources

Dereka Swaim, a Carl Junction mother of two, knows first-hand what it's like to simultaneously juggle the many challenges of being a parent and a full-time college student: she commutes to campus each day, is involved in school activities with her 11-year-old and 15-year-old as well as at her own school activities at Pittsburg State University, and is trying to make ends meet. 

Her classmate, Amy Gideon, a mother of two from Columbus, Kansas, also knows. She, too, commutes, balances a family life with a school life, and is paying for three college tuitions at once: Hers and her two children's.  

That's why the two are so passionate about the first PSU Parent Resource Roundup planned for Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Overman Student Center. They're helping to organize it as members of Phi Upsilon Omicron, an honor society in the Family & Consumer Sciences department where they're both seeking degrees in FACS Education. 

"We do a community service project each year, and this year we decided to focus on the struggles of students who are parents and how we can help them find success here at Pitt State," Swaim said. "As we've been in classes and met other students who are parents, too, or who are pregnant, we learn we all faces similar challenges." 

Swaim and Gideon said there are numerous resources available to parents and soon-to-be-parents on campus and throughout the community, but it took them awhile to find them. 

"A lot of us, had we known what resources are available, maybe we would have started our educations earlier in life," said Swaim, who is 42. 

She enrolled at Pittsburg State after her family went through the downturn of the economy in 2008 and experienced financial challenges as well as unexpected medical bills. It meant turning to community resources for help — something that was humbling, she said.  

"I realized then that if something were to happen to my husband, and it was just me with two kids and a mortgage, we'd be in poverty," she said. "That motivated me to pursue a college degree." 

Gideon was inspired to enroll when she was paying for college textbooks for her child. 

"I thought, 'What am I doing? I'm buying books for my child, and it was something I never did for myself'," said Gideon, who just turned 40. "I always put my family first, worked as a para for nine years so I could be on the kids' school schedule, and decided I needed to do something for my own future." 

She texted her boss and talked to her husband right then and there, and with their blessing, became a college student herself. 

"Now I want to help others who may be considering it, to encourage them and point them in the right direction," she said. "I know it's tough balancing jobs, school activities here, making time for the kids and a spouse, commuting. But there are organizations that can help you — can make it easier and relieve the burden, so that you can focus more on school and why you're here." 

Those organizations, all of which will be featured at the PSU Parent Resource Roundup, include Mother 2 Mother Ministries, SEK-CAP Head Start and Early Head Start, CHOICES and OPTIONS childcare and preschool, PSU Little Gorilla Preschool, the PSU Student Success Center, PSU Early Childhood Student Organization, Via Christi, Crawford County Mental Health Center, the Kansas Children's Service League, Parents As Teachers, Crawford County Diaper Stock, and DCCCA.org. 

A drawing will be held for a $50 Walmart gift card as an incentive for people to stop by and look, Swaim said. 

"It is not just for current students, but also prospective students, educators, social workers — for anyone who will be working with parents," Gideon added. "It will be set up as a come-and-go fair where people can come and gather information and find resources with no pressure." 

"We just want people who might be considering going to school as a parent to know they have support. Education is important — it's the one thing no one can ever take from you." 

Learn more about the Department of Family & Consumer Sciences at http://www.pittstate.edu/department/family/

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