Pregnant and parenting students on your campus face unique challenges. The current postsecondary education system isn’t designed to accommodate them. But you can be the catalyst for creating a pregnancy positive environment on your campus for women facing a full-time class load and motherhood. All you need to begin is an idea.
So what are the main tips and tricks to keep in mind? I interviewed three inspiring students who worked between classes to make their campuses more pregnancy positive.
Their stories reveal five valuable tips:
- Listen First: Talk to pregnant and parenting students to get informed on what they need to succeed.
- Brainstorm a Solution: Brainstorm an idea to solve one of their personal wants and needs.
- Recruit a Team: Recruit a team of people who are passionate about empowering student moms.
- Seek out mentorship: surround yourself with advisors and support.
- Set a timeline: Give yourself a realistic timeline to achieve your goal.
Of course, life on a college campus—as a student, a professor, or a staff member—is busy. The idea of taking on an ambitious project on top of all your other tasks may seem impossible, even for a worthy cause. But with the right amount of passion, endurance and support, you can make a difference on your campus.
I know, because I did it myself as a college student. And I know several other students who teamed up with faculty members to carry out amazing pro-women projects on campuses all over the country.
Here are a few of our stories. And maybe the beginning of your story too.
Lindsay’s Scholarship Project
Meeting Financial Need
Project name: Pregnant and Parenting Student Endowment
School: Montana State University, Bozeman
Lindsay, a business management major at Montana State University, was two years away from graduation when she decided to help pregnant and parenting students pay for tuition costs and the practical expenses of motherhood.
“The project I took on, alongside my fabulous team was to raise money to endow a scholarship for pregnant and parenting students at our school.” Lindsay went one step further. “Should our small club ever cease to exist,” she said, “the scholarship would continue to [be awarded] perpetually.”
Lindsay discovered that endowing a scholarship required a minimum fundraising goal of $25,000, plus more than $1,000 in processing fees. “[This was] larger than any of us could imagine,” she said, “We knew this project would be a multiple-year commitment.”
So, she set a goal to endow her parenting student scholarship by her graduation a couple years later. Lindsay and her club members hosted several pancake breakfasts at churches, partnered with local pregnancy resource centers, and reached out to other community groups. They fundraised for about two and a half years.
Three years after she first pitched her idea to her club members, Lindsay awarded the first scholarship to a parenting student in the nursing program.
Thank you letter from MSU parenting student scholarship recipient
It was an amazing moment. Suddenly, all the work and stress felt worth it.
“The results were a lovely thank you letter in which our first recipient described the ways the scholarship benefited her and her child. Receiving that letter brought tears of pride and chills to most of our team members and many of our parents.”
Anja’s Lactation Room Project
Reforming a Broken System
Project name: Campus Lactation Improvement/Key Card Access
School: Mississippi State University
Anja was a 21-year-old business administration major at Mississippi State University when she noticed a problem with her school’s lactation room access. “The doors had to remain locked due to abuse of the rooms by nonmothers. As a result, every woman wanting access had to go to another part of the building or another floor to check out a key.”
She noticed, “The process of checking out, going back to the room, pumping and cleaning, then returning the key took so long it discouraged [lactation room] use. Any parent with 15-30 minutes between class would hardly have time to pump or nurse.”
Key card access readers Anja advocated to install at “mothers rooms” at Mississippi State
So Anja brainstormed a simpler solution: “My solution was to increase access by having moms enroll their student IDs for mother’s rooms once per school year at the student health center.” Then she implemented “card scanners for the highest traffic rooms, and moms could access the rooms with one tap and get to pumping.”
“My solution was to increase access by having moms enroll their student IDs for mother’s rooms once per school year at the student health center.”
As she worked on her project, the school started to take notice. “I developed strong relationships with the student health center staff. They helped me by inviting me to join the lactation committee as a student representative.”
In her new role on the committee, Anja was able to suggest further improvements to make student mothers more comfortable: “We discussed improvements…like sink and outlet access, comfortable chairs, and a clean environment.”
But Anja didn’t accomplish it all alone. She was able to collaborate with people on both sides of the political spectrum to make her campus a better place for young mothers. “Everyone I spoke with was in favor and willing to help. I even made some unlikely friends in the process.”
“Everyone I spoke with was in favor and willing to help. I even made some unlikely friends in the process.”
It took most of the school year, but the school paper ended up doing a story on the project, raising further awareness. And the legacy of her work continues: “To this day, there are staff on campus passionate about the continuation of the mother’s rooms.”
Mariah’s Tabling Event
Raising Awareness of Rights and Resources on Campus
Project name: ASU Pregnant on Campus Week
School: Arizona State University
I was a junior in college studying psychology at Arizona State University when I brainstormed my own project: ASU Pregnant on Campus Week. I learned about the amazing rights and resources available to pregnant and parenting students. I also discovered that no one really knew they existed.
Planning and executing this week-long tabling event became my solution to the stunning lack of awareness I saw around me. So I scheduled the event and went to work. I started with a slogan: “Fearlessly pursuing family and education.”
I knew I couldn’t pull off the event alone, so I recruited volunteers from my sorority, community, and club. I sought out the advice of mentors and experts. I asked my creative friends to help me design a logo, flyers, and displays. I faced many obstacles, not least of which was my complete lack of event planning experience. And yet, over the next ten months, everything steadily came together.
Tabling at ASU Pregnant on Campus Week
With the help of many hands, we printed out Title IX facts to display as students walked by, crafted a giant photo frame that said “I support pregnant and parenting students,” and handed out free pregnancy test bundles.
At one end, we hung a “free speech board” with a different pregnant and parenting related question each day. We also invited students to write encouraging notes to their pregnant and parenting peers.
Over ninety students wrote notes—one that I would later personally hand over coffee to a student struggling with an unplanned pregnancy and lack of support from anyone around her. Over a hundred people stopped to ask questions and learn about all the amazing resources available. Hundreds more walked by, curiously reading our bright displays as they went. Our local news station came and covered the event, and the school newspaper wrote an article.
We can all make a difference.
Anja says her inspiration to take action came from the student moms she grew to know: “I was blown away by the moms who went to class, worked, joined clubs, studied, parented, and found time to pump or nurse between it all.” Lindsay strove to meet the very real financial need that all moms, especially student moms, face. I decided to confront and remedy the lack of awareness surrounding the abundance of pregnancy support available to students.
You can make a difference at your school too. Even if you don’t take on a large project, informing yourself on Title IX pregnant and parenting rights and becoming familiar with your school’s pregnancy policy is a large step in a positive direction.
Commit to being the compassionate “first friend” for a student who finds herself in an unplanned pregnancy while at school. Be the voice who tells her she is strong enough to embrace education and motherhood. In some way, be the change your campus needs.
Tammy Abernethy shares the secret to providing empowering support to women facing unplanned pregnancies.
Mom and college graduate Katie Forbes teaches us how to empower pregnant and parenting students to achieve their academic dreams.
Veronika Didusenko is known around the globe as a model and advocate for women’s rights. She is also the 22-year-old mother of a five-year-old son. Her mantra is bold but simple: “Having children is not a verdict.”