As I watch candidate speeches for the new USC Social Work Student Org, I can’t help but feel a little bias as to how a man running for president will address issues that address the needs of parents or women. To my surprise, Nelson Calderon, a candidate running for Social Work Student President, was posed with the question, how would you resolve conflict as student president? Like most candidates, he spoke about mediation, communication, coming to a common ground where both parties are satisfied, compromise and so forth (which are a quality of any good leader). What stood out to me, was the fact that as former undergraduate sociology president at his former university, he took the initiative to address the needs of student parents who complained that they needed childcare in order to go to school. Thus, Nelson Calderon helped to implement a Head Start Program, which is a program funded by the government for low-income parents to take care of their children while parents go to school. That’s a beautiful thing folks.
From what I’ve researched, I understand that a head start program does exist at USC, but I believe it’s still part of the childcare system at USC that had outstanding prices even when subsidized, since I called one time to figure out where the head start program was at USC and was directed right back to where I started.
Graduate students are older and currently life cycling through life. Meaning some are married, balancing a family, or like my colleague, is at the hospital having her first son. The reason I want to emphasize help for the parents is because parents face the additional challenge of taking care of another life, while balancing a career, a family, and school. It’s an additional challenge. They can’t do this if no sufficient support is offered and when people don’t feel supported, there is less motivation there. Let’s face it, graduate school is hard. I’ve heard the “I can’t imagine how you do it” words from other students, but maybe people just have to--to realize and ultimately feel the reality of the situation.
Just in the past two months, I’ve had to call students affairs and talk to the vice president in order to see if subsidies could be available, for example, for part-time students. It took them about a week to finally respond and what they said is, “No,” There are certain guidelines to what is considered a part-time student. For example, they’d have to be a research or teaching assistant... As I was talking to the vice president, who was actually wonderfully polite, I asked her, first of all, there is a reason that part-time students choose part-time, it’s because they are juggling a professional career, graduate school and family. I don’t know about you, but that sure does sound full-time to me. I said, so you expect them to be a teaching assistant or research assistant on top of everything else they do. Unfortunately, “it is what it is.” They expected part-time students to pay $800 for two days per week. How reasonable is that, seriously?
And it’s just the challenges that you face, I found myself writing in my field placement “reasons” to prove why I need a stipend for my internship. I wrote things like “I have a child and I have to pay for his food, clothing, and shelter.” I mean, duh, should I really be writing this right now. I feel that parents should also have priority in regards to reserving open slots for stipend opportunities for field placement at our school since it is basically stipends appear to be awarded to anyone based on need. I couldn’t help but think what were the other justifications of students wanting the stipend? Possibly a sick family member and so forth, which are just as equally important.
It’s really hard to find student’s who are parents here. A classmate of mine who is pregnant actually expressed to me that her field instructor had told her when she got pregnant, “Why would you do something like that?” In addition, she feels that childcare is not even an option for her because of the costs. She is worried about next year as to how it will turn out. She is extremely smart, but I’m sad that she cannot even look at our own school for support when she is basically dedicating or sacrificing herself for the school, which in turn does nothing for her to help her situation. Instead, she feels “it’s her own problem” and even gets comments like that from an instructor? I found myself giving her referrals or baby sitter numbers in the area she lives only hoping they would given her an affordable rate. I felt the questions, her self doubts, and her feeling torn between school and her baby. Sacrificing time with her baby was the chance she was willing to take to go back to school and what was the school going to give her, inconsiderate comments and no childcare? I never really believed in the theory or had the mentality that when you have a child, your life is over. But it appears that institutions are really supporting this. I hate it because I’m at odds with my the institution that I thought I would be proud of.
There’s no better time to advocate for parents than now. It’s now a matter of finding them first in the social work school, then in the larger school. I did enough talking, it’s just time to shut up and do it.
Dom commented below on my earlier blog explaining the importance of personal experience. It's a powerful thing since you are integrating your personal experience to the realities of life. Everyone has personal experiences that makes them see through a totally different lens. It's one thing to complain, talk, read, or write about it, it's about having the guts to take action and actually do something about it. My GABNet sisters, who have really taught me this, have been so persisent with ACTION no matter how far the solution maybe, it's always working towards hope...So remeber that there is.
Goodnite. On a good note, I just came back from LA LIVE and had great spicy jambalaya creme brulee (I don't know how to spell that). It was heck good. Yummy.