Stories of first-generation student parents presented by Lakeshia Carter at Rowan Symposium

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"First Gen and Pregnant: The Challenges & Successes of College Students Who Are Parents” creator, organizer and leader, Lakeisha Carter. The event was held on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 2:15 p.m. in room 144- B of the Student Center. - Photo / Lakeisha Carter

On Thursday, Feb. 16, Rowan held the “First-Gen and Pregnant: The Challenges & Successes of College Students Who Are Parents” presentation. 

The presentation was part of Rowan University’s First Generation Symposium, the annual conference held at the university since 2018 that offers support and resources to students who are the first in their families to attend college. 

Lakeisha Carter, the Education Coordinator for the M3 curriculum at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in Camden, created, led and organized the presentation. Carter reached out through the Rowan Announcer to find stories for the event of first-generation college students currently attending classes at Rowan while parenting. Several student experiences were anonymously shared through the slide show. One woman presented her experiences attending a graduate engineering program while raising a four-year-old son. 

“I think it’s important to understand first-generation students just because they are the new majority. There’s probably about a little bit over 50% of folks who are in college and universities right now who are first-gen, specifically students who are parents… And I think it’s important to understand those experiences so we can better serve students,” said Carter.

Carter first spoke of her own experiences being pregnant and parenting while a first-generation college student, using a poem that described what she faced when trying to get her child to daycare and herself to dance class during the winter. 

The presentation went on to detail the importance of student parents utilizing resources, both on and off campus, that are available to them to balance family life, school and any other responsibilities they may have. Carter specifically highlighted Rowan’s on-campus daycare, as well as The Shop, the Fresh For All program and the campus’s shuttle services and clinic.

Along with the discussion of useful resources, Carter highlighted some of the major ways the university could improve in making schooling more accessible to students with children, mainly by creating access to on-campus family housing. 

The presentation also highlighted some of the specific challenges frequently faced by those working to balance raising children and completing a degree, such as lack of access to transportation, mental health struggles, losing sleep, financial burdens and schedule conflicts. 

Carter also highlighted the successes of being a student parent, such as completing a degree, raising children, finding study opportunities and creative solutions to problems, and managing to be involved in the campus community. 

“I encourage everyone to use their voices to encourage more family-friendly spaces,” Carter said.

Carter also noted that only one third of parents enrolled in higher education will go on to complete their degrees, though she believes that if the institutions did more to provide for non-traditional communities, the number of parents that finish their degrees would increase. 

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