How Miami Dade College Is Supporting Student Parents

Posted November 2, 2022
Khalil Peters and his family sits for a photo, wearing matching peach-colored shirts. His wife holds their baby as their oldest daughter kisses the baby. Khalil smiles down at them.

Mia­mi Dade Col­lege, one of the largest high­er edu­ca­tion insti­tu­tions in the Unit­ed States, con­fers more asso­ciate degrees to Lati­no and Black stu­dents than almost any oth­er insti­tu­tion in the coun­try. The school is one of three com­mu­ni­ty col­leges par­tic­i­pat­ing in Expand­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Young Fam­i­lies (EOYF), a five-year effort fund­ed by the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion that pre­pares par­ents ages 1829 for edu­ca­tion­al and finan­cial success. 

To bet­ter serve young par­ents, Mia­mi Dade Col­lege recent­ly cre­at­ed Mis­sion North Star as an EYOF site. The pilot pro­gram helps young par­ents who are stu­dents pur­sue cre­den­tials, asso­ciate or bachelor’s degrees while bal­anc­ing the respon­si­bil­i­ties of parenthood.

Under­stand­ing the Needs of Stu­dent Parents

Accord­ing to a recent Child Trends report, 1 in 4 com­mu­ni­ty col­lege stu­dents are par­ents. Most of this group has chil­dren under the age of 6 and are more like­ly to need help with neces­si­ties such as food and hous­ing com­pared to non-par­ent­ing stu­dents. While they are high­ly moti­vat­ed stu­dents, these par­ents must bal­ance a unique set of respon­si­bil­i­ties that can lead to their stud­ies being derailed.

Mis­sion North Star was designed to help stu­dent par­ents stay enrolled and make progress toward degrees and cre­den­tials at Mia­mi Dade Col­lege. Using EOYF approach­es, Mis­sion North Star strives to aid young par­ents by:

  • pro­mot­ing par­ent engage­ment and leadership; 
  • elim­i­nat­ing enroll­ment challenges; 
  • offer­ing tai­lored support; 
  • engag­ing com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions and; 
  • dri­ving broad­er changes across the institution. 

Focus groups and sur­veys that explored the chal­lenges faced by young par­ents in Mia­mi-Dade Coun­ty informed the program’s design. Orga­niz­ers worked close­ly with a com­mit­tee of young par­ent lead­ers to ensure their pro­gram­ming con­tin­ued to meet par­ents’ needs. 

The col­lege works with com­mu­ni­ty-based part­ners in fields such as work­force devel­op­ment, edu­ca­tion, health care and hous­ing. By lever­ag­ing on-the-ground con­nec­tions to local com­mu­ni­ties, the col­lege can reach addi­tion­al par­ents. To meet them where they are, the col­lege also pro­vides high school diplo­ma or Eng­lish as a sec­ond lan­guage pro­grams to help stu­dents pre­pare for post­sec­ondary education.

While stu­dent par­ents can some­times feel invis­i­ble on cam­pus, it’s impor­tant that they know they aren’t alone,” says Quanic Fullard, senior asso­ciate with the Foun­da­tion. Through Mis­sion North Star, Mia­mi Dade Col­lege is cre­at­ing a blue­print for ways col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try can lis­ten to and sup­port par­ents who are students.”

Strate­gies for Sup­port­ing Stu­dent Parents

The col­lege has adopt­ed sev­er­al strate­gies to increase its sup­port of parents:

Col­lect­ing Data on Stu­dent Parents

Mia­mi Dade Col­lege allows stu­dents to iden­ti­fy them­selves as par­ents on intake forms, pro­vid­ing the school with valu­able data on its stu­dents and enabling it to bet­ter meet their indi­vid­ual needs.

Con­nect­ing Par­ents Through Peer Networks

Par­ent ambas­sadors used peer net­works to lead out­reach efforts, such as:

  • increas­ing par­ents’ sense of belong­ing on campus;
  • devel­op­ing a web­site for stu­dent par­ents to share resources;
  • boost­ing aware­ness of par­ents on cam­pus through social media; and
  • lead­ing vir­tu­al gath­er­ings for par­ents where they can have con­ver­sa­tions in a safe space.

They also cre­at­ed a pro­gram specif­i­cal­ly designed for stu­dent fathers and the part­ners of moth­ers enrolled in Mis­sion North Star to devel­op con­nec­tions and share par­ent­ing knowledge.

Meet­ing Fam­i­lies’ Needs

Mia­mi Dade Col­lege pro­vides stu­dents with access to basic needs ser­vices through Sin­gleStop – the college’s stu­dent refer­ral ser­vice – or oth­er com­mu­ni­ty part­ners. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, stu­dent par­ents are not always aware of or able to access these ser­vices, so stu­dent par­ent suc­cess coach­es were brought in to help par­ents iden­ti­fy sources of aca­d­e­m­ic sup­port, such as:

  • advis­ing and tutoring; 
  • child­care;
  • hous­ing; and 
  • trans­porta­tion.

Coach­es also work with par­ents to devel­op plans that map out their class sched­ules and com­mit­ments against job and fam­i­ly time con­straints. Dur­ing spe­cial reg­is­tra­tion days, stu­dent par­ents have a chance to con­nect with admis­sions, finan­cial aid and oth­er sup­port­ive ser­vices depart­ments all in one place.

Offer­ing Men­tal Health Services

The pro­gram expand­ed free men­tal health coun­sel­ing and peer-led par­ent sup­port groups on campus.

Stu­dent Par­ent Suc­cess Stories

Akeila Hardy, who is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing her bachelor’s degree in nurs­ing and work­ing as a reg­is­tered nurse, says Mis­sion North Star helped her secure child­care and dia­pers for her young son and fig­ure out how to pay for school. The staff mem­ber she worked with just kept com­ing through for me,” Hardy said. She lit­er­al­ly gave me hope.” Hardy has since helped peers nav­i­gate the school’s stu­dent par­ent ser­vices and feel more con­nect­ed to the campus.

Khalil Peters, who enrolled at Mia­mi Dade after the birth of his sec­ond child, says he found the array of schol­ar­ships and forms con­fus­ing. Through Mis­sion North Star, he had assis­tance nav­i­gat­ing the schol­ar­ship process and took advan­tage of work­shops on jug­gling the demands of home, work and school. Peters was even able to open his first sav­ings account because of the pro­gram. Today, he works as a crew mem­ber at Eglin Air Force Base and attends online class­es at Mia­mi Dade Col­lege full time as he pur­sues a career in foren­sic science.

Mis­sion North Star gave me the finan­cial resources I need­ed to afford col­lege and con­nect­ed me to pro­grams that helped me grow as a par­ent,” says Peters. They’ve taught me how to man­age my time and han­dle the pres­sures of being a full-time stu­dent, employ­ee and father.”

Look­ing to the Future

Using the lessons from Mis­sion North Star, Mia­mi Dade Col­lege hopes to inte­grate and expand EOYF approach­es through­out its eight cam­pus­es. This includes:

  • work­ing with com­mu­ni­ty part­ners to hire and train more stu­dent par­ent suc­cess coach­es, now known as care coor­di­na­tors,” with an empha­sis on fam­i­ly goal setting; 
  • sup­port­ing local efforts to increase access to child­care and ear­ly child­hood education; 
  • expand­ing com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships to increase ser­vices for both par­ents and children; 
  • offer­ing free men­tal health coun­sel­ing for stu­dent par­ents as well as refer­rals to free coun­sel­ing and trau­ma ther­a­py ser­vices for their children; 
  • expand­ing the local com­mu­ni­ty of stu­dent par­ents by offer­ing vir­tu­al and in-per­son spaces for par­ents and their chil­dren; and 
  • address­ing trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences in work­shops and par­ent­ing programs. 

Learn More About How the Foun­da­tion Is Sup­port­ing Stu­dent Parents

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