CU-Boulder students with kids find quality family summer time

By the numbers

23 percent: of undergraduates had dependent children.

10 percent: had one dependent child.

8 percent: had two dependent children.

5 percent: had three or more dependent children.

Source: U.S. Department of Education

It’s Thursday — nearly a month into University of Colorado’s summer break — and CU sophomore Ambrosia Berg is awakened before 8 a.m. to the sounds of a crying baby.

She walks down the stairs holding 15-month-old Azya on her hip and navigates through piles of toys for the television remote. The channel is still set on Disney from the night before.

If Berg sounds more like a mom than a student, that’s because for the next two and a half months, she is.

Berg is taking advantage of the summer months to spend quality time with her son, without the distractions of classes and homework.

“This is me as a mom now,” Berg said. “This is my time to spend with him before school starts and we get busy again.”

For most of the year, Berg is an undergraduate student and a parent. But opting out of summer classes gives her the opportunity to focus on her favorite role: mommy.

“He is the most important thing in my life,” Berg said. “But I have to focus on not just getting my degree, but doing good in school to make a better life for him.”

About 23 percent of 2007-08 undergraduates in the U.S. had dependent children, according to a study from the Department of Education.

Tate Brady, campus director for Real Choices Pregnancy Care Center, said single parents are more likely to struggle through college than the average student.

“On top of the financial strain, time and commitment required,” Brady said, “these students also have the emotional stress of people judging you because you’re a single parent.”

Single parent students are at higher risk of dropping out of college, Brady said. But, others are driven to higher achievements in hopes of providing better lives for their families, she said.

Tiyana Martin-Young will begin her sophomore year at CU in the fall — a decision she said is largely due to her two-year-old daughter Niemah.

“If I didn’t have my daughter, I would have transferred schools at the end of my first semester and went to Metro,” Martin-Young said. “The reason why I didn’t is because I know Boulder is the best place for me to get my education. And will better me and my daughter.”

Matin-Young said she knows a degree from CU will give her a better chance at success after graduating.

Martin-Young completed her freshman year at CU, thanks to her parents’ help watching Niemah, which gave her time to focus on school during the week.

“I learned fast after I failed two classes my first semester and was put on academic probation,” Martin-Young said. “Second semester I became more focused and balanced things way better.”

Martin-Young had her daughter about four days per week last year and completed 26 credits — keeping up with most college freshmen.

But as a sophomore, Martin-Young is planning to live with her best friend and keep her daughter full-time while going to school and working.

Berg, who has been helping Martin-Young prioritize, said she tries to limit her classes to a part-time course load and uses scholarships, grants, government programs and a part-time job to help her make time for Azya.

“It will take me about seven more years to get my bachelor’s,” Berg said, who is a member of the Pi Lambda Chi sorority, Student Outreach Retention Center for Equity (SORCE), the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Resource Center and the Academic Excellence Program. “I will be 27 when I get my undergrad and 35 when I finish graduate school, if I do it with no breaks.”

But Berg said she’s not worried about the time it will take to achieve her goal of becoming a special education teacher.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes me, as long as I work hard and set a good example for my son,” Berg said.

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