First year of college

Hannah Stepenoff is a graduate from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Mo. She double majored in both history and multimedia journalism and currently works as a news copy writer and weekend anchor at a radio station in Wyoming. She has also worked in print journalism, but most her expertise lies in online content and radio broadcast.

It’s 5 a.m. Cries bellow from your child’s room and you know sleeping in is out of the question. You are exhausted and you have a huge Statistics test today, and you just don’t think you can make it. I am here to tell you that you can.

When people consider the college life, they often think of parties, the freedom and well, hopefully, the opportunity to learn. But there is growing demographic of students who are not traditional. Over time, the stigma attached to young mothers who wish to seek and education has lifted, and now more than ever there are many options available for a young mom who wants to further her education. Being a single mother (or father for that matter) does not mean you need to put your education on hold.

I graduated high school with excellent grades, a four year-stint on the school newspaper and a ACT score that left my options fairly open and I had my heart set on Mizzou, which had one of the best journalism schools in the state. I hadn’t even framed my diploma, when my life changed forever–and spoiler– for the better. I was 18, pregnant and single; my dream school was slowly dissolving in my vision of the future.

I was depressed and scared, but I made the choice to keep my child and adjust my plan. I chose to go to Southeast Missouri State University, which as luck would have it was located in my hometown of Cape Girardeau. With the ability to use my family as a support system, I began school already a couple months pregnant and I’ll tell you it was hard. I worked 30 hours at a local restaurant to support myself and found a roommate–my best friend–in off campus housing. And though I was tired, and as most freshman know, all my classes were at 8 a.m., I made it through my first semester with a commendable GPA.

Then, I had my son. Now, being pregnant is hard, but once my son was born I panicked and due to complications I had to sit my third trimester out at both my job and school. Now, this is the point where some may give up. But I did not. After my son was born, I took summer courses to play catch up and begin fall semester as usual. Through trials and tribulations, I was able to make it through school, with many a minor and major change, and eventually graduated in 2013 as a double major with a degree in multimedia journalism and history. Throughout this period, I was able to complete two internships, write for the university paper, all while serving full time to pay the bills.

Ok so obviously that doesn’t sound like a ton of fun, but I also made lifelong friends, attended events, had rousing conversations over coffee and lived the college life–albeit a bit more sedated. I’m sharing my story because it is not unique. There are many young mothers who are trucking through with potentially more dire circumstances than myself.

There are financial options specifically tailored to women with dependents who wish to further their education. Among the many options for financial assistance are federal pell grants directed toward young mothers, university childcare, and many state programs that can assist with food and housing. Aside from the financial options, it is important you know you are not alone. More than one-fifth of all undergraduates are parents with 75 percent holding jobs, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

For every person who thinks of college as a time to be an irresponsible twenty-something, there are others that are seeking a way to better themselves and their child, and that’s great too. No matter where you are at in your intentions for the college experience, you will always get back what you put in. But if you don’t try, you will never know.

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