ATD Student Story: Childcare Support Propels Forsyth Tech Mother

Many community college students face significant barriers to successfully completing their degree. For student parents facing costs for tuition and books, barriers are often insurmountable. For Amanda James, a student at ATD Network college Forsyth Technical Community College (Forsyth Tech) and a mother of two children, affordable, convenient childcare was the type of barrier that threatened to derail her dreams of completing her degree.

James graduated from high school in 2010, and gave birth to a son in 2011 and a daughter in 2015. As a recent high school graduate and a mother of two young children, she was faced with escalating childcare costs as she considered how to afford her education and to find the support she needed for her children. In 2018, James visited Forsyth Tech and learned about a grant through the SOAR (Success through Orientation, Advising and Registration) program. Through support from the U.S. Department of Education’s Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS), eligible student-parents at Forsyth may receive up to 70 percent reimbursement at a licensed childcare center. Students are able to use the grant stipends at Forsyth Tech’s Carol L. Danforth Early Childhood Lab School, located on the college’s campus in Winston-Salem, NC.

“The grant helped me tremendously. It paid for childcare and enabled me to fulfill my educational dreams of going back to school,” said James. Not only does her daughter Amira love the school, she’s receiving an excellent education. Amira gets one-on-one attention and instruction at the lab school, which makes James comfortable knowing her child is getting a quality education. The Lab School is a licensed five-star childcare facility, and the school staff welcomes James to visit her daughter during the course of the day.

In her classes, James has found a strong network of peers who share their experiences as student parents, talking about how to navigate their challenges. Her conversations and camaraderie with other parents help James navigate her own challenges in being a student parent. When asked what advice she would share with Forsyth Tech about helping other student parents navigate college, James expressed her fortune in having a supportive partner but also wished there was more flexibility in the hours offered for childcare. “It would be helpful to have an evening daycare – my husband is in law enforcement, and he has a schedule that’s imbalanced. I know other parents who have to work and only go to night school and struggle with childcare.”

As she reflects back on difficulties she faced in her own childhood, James is determined to complete her associate degree in Human Services before pursuing her bachelor’s degree at nearby Winston-Salem State University. She feels that her own childhood challenges and her experience in navigating college as a student parent can be an asset to other women parents. After graduation, James plans to work in a position where she can assist mothers and families in overcoming barriers to completing their education goals.  

Amanda James’ journey back to college is one that is reflective of countless experiences shared by students and colleagues at ATD Network colleges across the country. Nearly four million student parents attend college every year, and most are women. Without adequate support like public benefits, financial aid, or childcare, many mothers never graduate from college. When women graduate from college, they, their children, and their families have better economic opportunities.  

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