Juggling family, classes made easier through SWAP

Susanna Ross sits with her husband, Jeff Ross, and kids. Ross is a student at Baylor and secretary of Students Who Are Parents, an organization to help student parents adapt and manage college and family.Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photo Editor
Susanna Ross sits with her husband, Jeff Ross, and kids. Ross is a student at Baylor and secretary of Students Who Are Parents, an organization to help student parents adapt and manage college and family.
Carlye Thornton | Lariat Photo Editor
By Sergio Legorreta

Baylor students who are parents will be able to attend the first Family Fun Festival, an afternoon of games and activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Organized by the new student organization Students Who Are Parents (SWAP), the festival will take place from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Russell Gymnasium.

Dr. Linda English, founder and faculty adviser of SWAP, said she hopes the event and organization will help students who are parents come together and support each other by building a sense of community. English said SWAP is important to her because of her personal experiences.

“I went through college as a single parent,” English said. “So I’ve always had a heart to help others with these needs.”

The festival will include carnival style games, inflatables, face painting, crafts and refreshments. The Family Fun Festival flier states instead of an entrance fee, attendees should consider donating to the education programs of Christian Women’s Job Corps.

English said the job corps is a worthy organization because it helps to educate and prepare nontraditional students for the labor market.

Hewitt sophomore Susanna Doss, secretary of SWAP, said she considers herself to be a nontraditional student, as a 37-year-old mother.

“To achieve a degree was a lifelong dream,” Doss said. “I was not prepared for how different I felt, out of place. I don’t always look like everyone else. I’m always being mistaken for a professor.”

Doss said there are also unique pressures she faces as a parent that she felt only other parents could relate to, which motivated her to get involved with SWAP.

“It takes all of your time to be a parent, all of your time to be a student. There’s no time left over,” Doss said.

One of the questions Doss has to consider is scheduling around her three children’s school schedules and taking care of them when they are sick.

“My husband has been able to help out,” Doss said. “He takes time off work whenever he can.”

Doss has also had to spend money on babysitting services provided by local church members.

Baylor faculty has accommodated to her needs when she has brought them up, Doss said.

El Paso junior Priscilla Fernandez, president of SWAP, said Baylor faculty has also been understanding with her, especially when she ran into trouble with childcare early in the semester. As a transfer student from El Paso Community College, Fernandez had to find childcare services while adapting to Baylor and the information was not readily available to her.

Fernandez has also faced the challenge of managing her time, especially because she works part-time to full-time hours.

She said she felt the need to become involved with SWAP after attending Late Night.

“I went to Late Night and didn’t see anything that was for students like me,” Fernandez said. “It can get pretty isolated as a student off-campus, as a transfer student.”

Fernandez said SWAP is a good way for students who are parents to become more involved with events at Baylor and adapt.

Fernandez and Doss are not alone in their experiences. A 2013 briefing paper from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research states nearly 25 percent of college students in the U.S. have dependent children, which can affect the academic life of the parents.

According to the findings, 53 percent of parents leave college with no degree after six years, compared to 31 percent of students who are not parents. More than 50 percent of students who are parents spend 30 hours per week on care giving activities and 40 percent of student-parents work full-time or more. Despite these challenges, they have higher GPA’s than other students.

SWAP was chartered the end of last spring semester and English said the name was inspired by the idea of helping one another.

“We want to share resources, connect, build community and swap ideas on how to be successful,” she said.

Information about SWAP meetings and the Family Fun Festival can be found on the organization’s Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Baylor-SWAP/303580439837968.