As Recognition of the Need for Supports Grows, ATD Joins Partners to Celebrate Opening of a New Space for Student Parents

At Generation Hope the mission is both straightforward and daunting. The organization strives to reduce poverty one family at a time by providing mentoring, resources, and services to help teen parents become college graduates and help their children enter kindergarten ready to succeed. The organization represents one of a growing number of initiatives focused on increasing success for student parents. ATD’s Meredith Archer Hatch joined other community and higher education leaders in a roundtable discussion at Generation Hope headquarters in Washington, D.C.

At the roundtable, Generation Hope Scholars, teen parents attending two- and four-year colleges in Washington, D.C, Maryland, and Northern Virginia who receive financial support and one-on-one mentoring, shared experiences with the barriers faced on their campuses. Generation Hope shared results of a recent survey of Scholars which found, for instance, that many Scholars feel more welcome on community college campuses as parents than they do at four-year institutions. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Nicole Lynn Lewis commented on a particular barrier that Scholars often face--- lack of physical space on campuses for parents with children. 

“Student parents are an invisible population, who aren’t valued, aren’t seen,” shared Ms. Lewis. “Physical space [on campus] communicates values.” 

Following the discussion, participants and special guests participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate a family-friendly study area in the Generation Hope facility, one that is open to Scholars and their children. Generation Hope Scholar Nija was overwhelmed at seeing the new space. “I have a place where my son and me feel accepted, which makes me feel complete!”  

The awareness of the need to support student parents pursuing college work has been steadily growing. Last week, Achieving the Dream President and CEO Dr. Karen A. Stout joined ATD staff and national partners for a briefing co-hosted by ATD on Capitol Hill that brought to light the challenges that college students who are parents face in their pursuit of higher education. At that briefing, Dr. Daria Willis, president of ATD Leader College of Distinction Everett Community College in Washington state, spoke about the work on her campus to transform a library space to welcome student parents and their children, and shared personal experiences of being a student-parent while pursuing a college degree. 

The needs of student parents nationally, specifically women, was instrumental in Achieving the Dream’s decision to launch the Community College Women Succeed Initiative in February. The initiative strives to identify and promote effective strategies that help adult women students succeed in community college. Since the launch, ATD has continued to engage with Network colleges and with students and leaders throughout the country to learn about gaps and promising practices. And as the initiative has progressed, opportunities like the Generation Hope roundtable and Capitol Hill briefing have underscored the need for more work around providing additional supports to help student parents succeed.

After the roundtable, Meredith Archer Hatch, ATD’s Senior Associate Director of Workforce and Academic Alignment, who is leading the organization’s Community College Women Succeed efforts, shared, “We have a long way to go elevating and implementing strategies to increase success for student parents, but Achieving the Dream is committed to this work. We’re encouraged by the momentum we’ve seen in the recognition and supports that many ATD Network colleges are providing and the work of all the talented organizations and student parents in the room today.” 

Achieving the Dream is excited by the efforts of partners locally and nationally to support student parents, and we’re just getting started with our work to help more community college women succeed. 

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