I finally achieved one of my biggest goals and walked the graduation stage last May earning my bachelor’s degree in social work from Colorado State University-Pueblo after what felt like a 10-year journey to accomplish.
Three months shortly after having my son Loukas at 18, I decided to enroll in college part-time and work toward a college degree. Fortunately, I had the support of my family to help with child care and take care of my son as I returned to school. Without my family’s support, it would have been difficult for me to manage everything at once.
Once I started college, I had to figure out how I would pay for tuition and cover expenses related to attending college like textbooks, class materials, and parking. I received Pell grants, which helped cover part of my tuition, but I still took out student loans to cover the rest.
Long story short making it through college required a lot of sacrifices and making tough decisions. I took summer classes to catch up on credits, worked long shifts, and spent many long nights studying after I had taken care of my duties as a mom. While I felt discouraged at times, I never gave up. I was determined to cross the finish line and get my college degree.
While I’m proud of my accomplishments and all my hard work, I wish it didn’t have to be so tough for student-parents like me to earn a college degree. I felt blessed to have help with child care from my family, but many student-parents don’t have that support. The plight of student-parents could be addressed if there were additional funding to support us.
Affordable and accessible on-campus child care is part of the solution but greater financial aid and help with paying tuition for student-parents is a crucial piece of the solution. In my case, if Colorado would have invested more in financially supporting student-parents I would have avoided taking out student loans.
At the end of the day, I am one of the lucky ones that made it and got their college degree. It wasn’t easy, but if we want more student-parents like me to walk the graduation stage there needs to be an unwavering commitment by community leaders and officials in Colorado to support us in every way possible.
Jayda Rayas is a graduate of CSU-Pueblo and the proud mother of Loukas.