GVSU students set aside time, money to raise children
Twenty-year-old Tina Tran, a junior at Grand Valley State University, slowly gets out of bed when an alarm goes off at 7 a.m. in her apartment in Wyoming, Mich. She opens her bedroom door and softly
pads down the hallway trying not to wake Anastasia, her daughter, who was born Jan. 6, 2009.
“I went from being a freshman in high school to an adult in a very short amount of time,” Tran said. “I
can’t explain to others how hard it is because they can’t relate. As a parent you’re in charge of all the
decisions, big and small.”
Twenty five minutes away in Caledonia, 20-year-old Brianna Kilgore has been awake since 6 a.m. She
has to get her 4-year-old son, Alexander, ready by 7:15 a.m. They will then make the hour commute
to Allendale, where Alexander attends the Children’s Enrichment Center at GVSU while Kilgore is in
“I found out I was pregnant at the end of my sophomore year of high school,” said Kilgore, who is now
in her sophomore year at GVSU. “I had just gotten home from spring break in Colorado. At first I
didn’t believe it, so I took multiple pregnancy tests. After the third one, I decided they were probably
GVSU offers several support systems for student-parents. The Women’s Center can connect students
with other organizations as well as provide them with resources about contraception and pregnancy.
“A lot of times we get student-parents that are told by different offices, roommates or friends to stop
in. We are that first step,” said JoAnn Wassenaar, associate director of the Women’s Center at GVSU.
“Whether it’s an unplanned or a planned pregnancy, they are looking for options. Is it possible to stay
in school? How do they navigate their classes and faculty members?”
For Kilgore and Tran, the question wasn’t deciding whether to attend college. Instead, it was figuring
out how to fit into the masses of traditional students.
“I have always wanted to go to college since I was a little girl,” Kilgore said. “In my house it wasn’t an
option; you were expected to go to college. Getting pregnant and having a baby only fueled my desire
to go to college, because now I had an actual reason to better myself. I knew I needed a good
education if I wanted to get a job that would support the two of us. It is hard sometimes, though. I
don’t make as many friends because I don’t live on or close to campus. It is hard to connect and
network with other people because I am rarely on campus, and when I am, my son is with me. Not
many college students want to hang out with a 4-year-old. I do sometimes feel like I am missing out.”
The Student Parent Club, an organization at GVSU that was formed in December 2012, is working to
create a support system for students like Kilgore and Tran. In just one year, the group has increased
from eight members to more than 60. The club currently meets once a month and has discussed
financial aid for non-traditional students, student-parent scholarship opportunities, affirmative action
and Title IX, which protects, in part, the rights of pregnant and parenting students.
“Pregnant and parenting students sometimes have a difficult time fitting in and relating to traditional
students due to the responsibility differences they face,” said Jeannette Bunda, president of Student
Parent Club. “If nothing else, the club provides an opportunity for student-parents to socialize with
each other, and it allows them an opportunity to be more engaged in campus life.”
The Children’s Enrichment Center, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, is an on-campus
childcare and early learning facility also available to faculty and the community. Students get a
discounted rate of $145 per week.
“Even with a significant discount, a large number of students find it difficult to manage,” Director
Sharalle Arnold said. “Whether it’s at Grand Valley or other institutions, many students often report
having financial difficulties trying to afford personal tuition and childcare.”
To help cover the costs of raising a child, Tran has had a job since Anastasia was born when she was
16. During the school year, Tran works an average of 15 hours a week at Kohl’s.
“It’s hard to balance work and school along with making sure I spend enough time with Anastasia,”
Tran said. “I’ve definitely learned time management and how to schedule my days. I’m lucky my family
and boyfriend also help watch her too. After a few years, I think I’ve finally got it down.”
Last week Anastasia started pre-school, adding another component to their busy schedule.
But despite the challenges that accompany parenthood, Tran doesn’t regret it.
“Anastasia had definitely motivated me to do and be better in life,” Tran said. “She depends on me. I
need to do everything that I can to make sure she comes first. It’s really a special bond between a
parent and their child.”
Kilgore agreed and said being a mom has made her a much better person than she was before.
“Being a mother has taught me patience, time management, the fact that nothing in life can ever be
planned 100 percent, unconditional love, kindness and understanding,” she said. “It has taught me
how to put other people’s needs before my own.”