|... a mother sat next to her three
children as they lie quietly, hanging on her every word. She magically recites
the last of their favorite bedtime story and kisses them on the tops of
their tiny heads.
With a quiet sigh she puts her children to bed and sits down in a small plastic chair at its matching table. Laying The Billy Goats Gruff down, she picks up a textbook and begins her own nightly ritual.
This mother is 26-year-old Carrie Leach, an Oklahoma State University agricultural communications senior. The three sleeping children are the driving force behind Leach's determination to be a college graduate.
"I've been going to school since my son Tyler, now 7, was 4 months
old. He laughs now and reminds me we will be graduating this year,"
said Leach. "In all honesty, we will because he has been there with
me through it all."
|Carrie Leach has learned to manage her time so she is able to spend quality time with her three children: (left) Tyler, 7; Bailey, 2; and Lane, 4. (Photo by Lacy Curry)|
Carrie Leach said she goes to school so her children can have opportunities she didn't have as a child.
Having one parent in school can be a source of physical and financial stress for a family. But when both parents attend school full time, new challenges arise. Josh and Megan Bible, both 22, attend classes at OSU and have an 11-month-old son, Jayden.
While attending classes full-time, the Bibles have little room for jobs outside of school or home. Josh Bible started his student teaching experience this fall and is challenged with how he will support his family. Policy in the agricultural education program bars Josh from working while he is student teaching.
Megan Bible is starting her second semester back to school after the birth of their son and is majoring in biochemistry. She plans to graduate in May 2006.
These students must make sacrifices daily to accomplish their personal goal of becoming college graduates.
|"There are small things I know
I will miss because I am at school," said Megan Bible. "The first
time my son crawls or walks will probably be to his babysitter and not to
Although sacrifices must be made, sometimes the sacrifices come at the expense of coursework, not family time. On a typical day in the Leach home, coursework is not even started until all the children are in bed. There are times when being a student and doing homework is the furthest thing from Leach's mind.
"Some nights I am not a student at all," said Leach. "I'm just a mom."
The spouses of non-traditional students take on responsibilities that were probably never imagined when they took their marriage vows. Josh Bible and Clint Leach agree supporting their wives in their decision to attend school was always first priority."Clint gets the opportunity to play Mr. Mom while I am at school, especially when I have evening classes," Leach said. "But Clint's biggest contribution was giving me the opportunity to go to school and him to support us financially; it really meant a lot to me that he would do that."
|Josh and Megan Bible make an extra effort to spend time with their 11-month-old son, Jayden. (Photo by Lacy Curry)|
While the students who start college as 18-year-old high school graduates are still OSU's dominant population, students with spouses and children are filtering back into the educational system. To these students, the chance to return to school means a better income for their families and a new outlook on life for themselves.
Advisers in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are now enrolling students with families in classes that correspond with their children's schedules. Professors also are making class policies to help accommodate these student-parents, such as special attendance policies and allowing students to bring a child to class if necessary.
Jerry Fitch, animal science professor and coordinator of undergraduate animal science advising, said the most important job for an adviser is to get these students the schedules they need.
"We try to make the classes fit as closely as possible with the children's schedules so parents can take their children to school and be there when they get out," said Fitch.
Josh and Megan Bible are finally adjusting to life as two students and a baby. He works at Stillwater Milling from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. two nights a week to support his family.
"The hardest part of working wasn't that I didn't get to start my homework until 11 o'clock, but that Jayden was asleep when I got home, and I barely got to see him at all that day," he said.
Deciding to have a child in college can be a hard decision to make, and sometimes that decision is made by a higher power, said Megan Bible. But both families agree on one basic idea: Even if they could, they would not replace the opportunity to be parents.
It is not uncommon to see Carrie Leach passing around the latest pictures of her children to her classmates, or to hear Megan Bible telling her class about her son's latest accomplishment. Josh and Megan Bible said they are proud they have an opportunity to shape their son's life and the motivation to provide the best life possible for him.
"I may sacrifice my money, and sometimes my school work, but one thing I will never sacrifice is my love for my kids," Leach said. "They should be the ones to get my diploma because it is all for them."
These individuals are not just students, nor are they just parents. They are heroes who pull 24- hour shifts with school, jobs and family responsibilities. Leach said these students don't give up when things get hard; they just keep on working toward their goals.
The day they finish their degrees and will be able to call OSU their
"alma mater" is only a semester or two away; then they can live
happily ever after. By Lacy Curry, Stratford, Okla.