College-Bound With Kids

Graduation season is here! Students are feeling both relieved and accomplished, while families are feeling proud. When I see a graduate, it always makes me want to tell my own "St. Olaf" story like the character Rose, played by Betty White from the late '80s hit sitcom, The Golden Girls...

I will try to deliver the story without getting distracted (sorry, Rose) but I must say that it is incredible how sharp Betty White is today at 93 years old! OK, I digress...

I made a couple left and right turns in life growing up in Chicago, but none that I could not recover from, thankfully. I became pregnant at age 20 and while I gave up my childhood dream of becoming a doctor, I have always wanted to attend a four-year college university and live the college life, you know like the, "traditional" students, those cramming notes for the next day's final, pledging in a sorority, going to all the parties, sleeping in late only to rush to my first period class with flip-flops, shorts and a hoodie. I am now discovering that nothing in my life has ever been "traditional" except for the fact that I became a mother at the same age my mother became a mother with me.

After a few years of spotty employment gigs and failed courses at the local community college, I decided to make U-Turn in life and returned to the local community college in an effort to retake the failed courses. Every class failed turned into an "A" or "B" letter grade and that success turned into transferable credits to continue my education at a four-year university. I began to research colleges and universities that had family housing. During this time in my life, I did not have ongoing access to a computer. As a matter of fact, it was a luxury to go to the library, sign-up and have a desk all on your own for an hour.

College catalogs were my weapons; the landline was my sidekick, as I would contact the Admissions office to ask if they had family housing. I was often disappointed that many of the Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) did not have family housing. There were a few that had a waiting list for the family housing.

I became proficient in what questions to ask, collected data and had a filing system in place. I applied for application waivers, whatever it took to find the right fit for me and my 3-year-old daughter at the time. One thing was for sure: Leaving her behind with family was not an option. We were going to do this together.

I made the decision to attend Illinois State University. It was close to home, they offered my major, there was a daycare on the campus and most importantly, they offered family housing. I successfully graduated from college and my daughter was there to see me. I did not live the college life I envisioned since I was a "non-traditional," student, but it was still one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Technology has afforded greater access to online college programs which offers more flexibility for parents especially. Honestly, I have not been successful in completing online courses; I guess I am more of an in-classroom training kind of student.

I would encourage any parent who have always dreamt of going away to college to consider this positive, life-altering choice. Go away to school and take your children with you.