Virginia State University launches new initiatives to help students who are single parents
The program provides special off-campus housing for students with children, plus other family-oriented amenities.
CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia State University hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at University Apartments at Ettrick on Wednesday to celebrate the university’s new student-parent housing program.
The program provides special campus housing for six student parents (students who are also parents) and their young children.
“All of our residents are young mothers who are full-time students at VSU,” said VSU Assistant Vice President for Student Success and Engagement Regina Barrett-Tyler. “All honors students, we’d like to add.”
DaNajah Winfield is a freshman biology major at VSU and one of the mothers living in the new family housing at University Apartments at Ettrick. She has a 14-month-old son.
“I mean, it’s awesome because I have somewhere to come home to, and we’ve got a fridge, we’ve got everything we need and everything just right here,” said Winfield. “We have a grocery store right across the street. I don’t have to travel too far with the baby.”
Winfield shares an apartment with fellow student and mother, Makaela King.
“I was like, this must be a sign from God because there’s nothing out here,” said King, a freshman criminal justice major. “I was just losing hope, so I’m glad I found this.”
King’s son is similar in age to Winfield’s, and the mothers said the boys love spending time together in the shared apartment.
This initiative has special meaning for Dr. Derrick Peterson, Director of Residence Life and Housing at VSU.
“I, myself, was a student parent when I was in undergraduate school,” said Peterson. “My daughter learned how to walk on the campus of my institution. This opportunity, the supports and resources that we have in place, I didn’t have when I was a student, so I’m excited to be a part of this initiative.”
VSU leadership also met Wednesday with officials from Generation Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting student parents, to discuss current and future initiatives on campus.
VSU has already added special child-friendly study rooms in the university library and a lactation station on campus for nursing mothers.
The school is also making changing tables available in female and male bathrooms if they have the required space. Student-parent parking is also being developed for expecting mothers, and the goal is to have designated signage at every academic building, according to a VSU press release.
The university said it conducted a campus-wide survey last year and found that the cost of childcare is one of the greatest challenges facing student parents. In response, VSU applied for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) grant and was awarded $1.45 million by the U.S. Department of Education to provide student parents with childcare funding for four years.
Winfield and King benefit from that grant, which allows them to afford daycare for their toddlers while they attend classes and work.
“Since we’ve received the grant, it has just been a blessing for students, particularly low-income students, who don’t have the resources to further their education,” said Barnett-Tyler.
According to the university press release, 13 VSU student parents are receiving funds to pay for childcare so they can focus on graduating.
“Many of our student parents are first-generation college students, so this is an amazing opportunity for them to earn their college degree, increase their earning potential, and be able to be parents at the same time,” said Barnett-Tyler.
There is currently a waitlist for other student parents wanting to stay in the new off-campus family housing.
Students can stay in the family apartments as long as they are enrolled full-time and maintain a 2.0 grade point average.
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