Sep 20, 2019

Quitting was not an option

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

Some Fresno State students are not only full-time students, but also parents. Fresno State’s Campus Children’s Center helps student-parents as they juggle school and their family.

Every Wednesday at about 10 a.m., 1 and a half-year-old Izayah Benavides says to his teacher, “mom, mom,” while pointing to a picture of his mother. It is because Izayah knows that at 11 a.m. his mother will arrive at Fresno State’s Campus Children’s Center to visit him.

Jessica Gonzalez, 20, a junior and pre-nursing major, is one of several students at Fresno State carrying out the role of being a full-time student and mother.

While other students use their break to eat lunch, relax and catch up on homework, Gonzalez walks to the campus children’s center to visit her son Izayah.

“It’s great to visit him on my break,” Gonzalez said. “I just worry I might miss out on special moments. Sometimes I feel bad when his teacher tells me he learned something new and I wasn’t there.”

Although Gonzalez got pregnant in the middle of her freshman year at Fresno State, she said quitting school wasn’t an option for her.

“It’s common for a woman who takes a semester or year off of school, because of her child, to not go back to school because she is used to being with her child. I didn’t want that to happen to me,” Gonzalez said. “The quicker I get my degree and finish school the quicker I will be able to get a job and support my child; rather than take a year off and be that much further away.”

Gonzalez said it is easier for her to continue her education because she has a lot of support at home and at the campus children’s center.

Gonzalez was recently accepted in the Fresno State Program’s for Children (PFC), at the Infant and Toddler Center, in August 2008; after she waited one year to be accepted.

Kirsten Lange, site-three supervisor, Infant and Toddler Center, said parents who want to enroll their children in the campus centers are put on the waiting list for about one year. “It’s very long because that’s the need; we need more facilities and funding from the government especially for the Infant and Toddler Center.”

Bryan Cole / The Collegian

PFC provides eligible students with childcare during school hours, study time and work hours, if taken while the centers are open. The centers provide services from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, but hours vary depending on the center.

Childcare is primarily for Fresno State students, faculty and staff and then community members, with services in three different programs.

The infant/toddler program is available for children between 3 months and 2 years of age.

The preschool program is for children between 2 and 6 years of age and the school-aged program is for children between 5 and 12 years of age.

Priority of services are given to currently enrolled and returning families and siblings and then to new families who are eligible for subsidized services.

Lange said their philosophy is based on a relationship with the parents and families.

“We want to be consistent with home care, it’s essential for the child’s identity development,” Lange said. “For instance, a child may like to be held a certain way, so we’ll mimic how the mother holds her child and write it in a journal.”

The teachers at the Infant and Toddler Center write weekly journals for parents to let them know what their child has done throughout the week. Parents also write in the journal to let the teachers know about the child’s home culture.

“When they’re young their identity is the same as their mother’s so we want to mimic their home culture,” Lange said.

Gonzalez said she likes the idea of the weekly journals, “It’s great because we get weekly journals of what the kids do, with pictures and everything, so I don’t miss out on anything.”

About half of the families have more than one child in PFC. Vanessa Perez, 23, a psychology major, has been in PFC for over three years and now has both of her children, 8-month-old Miguel Angel and 4-year-old Luis Albert, in the program.

“I think it’s easier because it’s on campus. I could drop them off and go do what I have to do. The people in the day care tell me I can go any time to see [my children], so I go see them during my breaks,” Perez said.

Perez said that it was difficult when she had her first child, especially when he would get sick and she did not have a babysitter.

“I had to skip class because I had no one to watch him,” Perez said. “It was hard to catch up in class. That was the hardest part.”

Not only did Perez have the task of being a full-time student and mother, but she was also working a part-time job.

Perez stopped working eight months after her second son Miguel was born because “It is too hard to work and go to school.”

Perez decided to continue her education because of her kids. “I think education is really important, it’s for their future. I want to be a role model for my kids, so they won’t say my mom didn’t do anything.”

Maria Olivarez and her husband Justo, full-time students at Fresno State, have their 3-year-old daughter Diana in the campus children’s program.

Olivares has also been on the waiting list for four months to get her 4-month-old daughter Mariana in the program.

Until Mariana is accepted in the program Olivarez and her husband have to rotate class schedules to take care of their daughter.

“I think my motivation [to stay in school] was to have a future for myself in order to provide my children with what they need,” Olivarez said. “A lot of people thought I was going to quit, but I kept on going.”

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