UI student parent group aims to provide better networking, resources


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Some student-parents at the UI have created a program offering better networking and childcare options — and they may soon see their efforts wind up as a formally recognized student group.


"[Coming to the UI,] I felt really isolated from people my age, and I didn't get to know other students with kids," said UI junior Jenna Herr, who had a child durring her junior year of high school. "And I was really limited in what I could do here."

Business major Herr and other student-parents at the UI have advocated for student-parent services allowing more contact among parents and easier access to resources such as housing and childcare.

UI junior Nicole Filloon developed the program Supporting the Education of Parent-Students after her own experiences as a student-parent. The organization — which now has around 30 student-parents — is awaiting approval from the university to become an official student organization, to be decided April 27.

Filloon said she began the program to make it easier for student-parents at the UI.

"Meeting other student-parents is something that individually we all felt the same frustrations," said Filloon, the founder and president. "At first, coming to the university, I felt like I had to do a lot of digging to find resources for student-parents."

The UI offers free childcare during the two weekends before finals and reimburses some students between $50 and $220 a month for childcare services. This academic year, the university reimbursed 219 student-parents for childcare and has had approximately 15 students utilize the free childcare during finals.

However, Filloon and Herr said they wanted more opportunities to network and share resources with fellow student-parents.

"One of the hardest things for me was finding housing and daycare," she said. "As a student coming right out of high school, what was presented to me was dorm life — which obviously isn't something that I can benefit from."

Night exams were one of the biggest academic difficulties, Herr said.

"I had two testing periods that were too late to get adequate childcare," she said. "I had a baby-sitter who just didn't show up one time. I think one thing student-parents would really benefit from is a centralized childcare."

Nicole Studt, the manager of UI Family Services, said she supports the new organization's ability to bring student-parents together.

"I think it's great," she said. "I think it's great for student-parents to connect with each other on campus. Many of them are going through the same thing."

Though the organization is not a university-sponsored group yet, Filloon said she has found it successful.

"Through this group, I've gotten to know this great group of people and their kids," she said. "Now, I feel connected not just with the university but with the community."

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