OP-ED: The importance of family

Kristen Bowman, Contributor

Throughout the last semester I have written several pieces about being a single mother and a college student. These stories included some of the daily struggles I faced and the realities of being a mother. In one of the articles I talked about the importance of knowing who your people are, but it is also important to know where you belong.

My son, Caden, was only a year old when I started looking at colleges. I knew that I wanted to pick a university that would support my family in the best way possible. I toured several universities close to my hometown because, after all, I would need the support of my family if I was going to be successful in college.

However, my best friend, Alexandria “Alley” Penshorn, had an amazing solution for me. She informed me that Tarleton had a family housing program. She was also planning on attending Tarleton and highly recommended the school to me. My agricultural teacher, Felice Marek, highly encouraged me to attend Tarleton because it is her alma matter. I applied and I was accepted fairly quickly.

The next thing I knew, on June 7, I graduated from high school and I moved to Tarleton State University on June 16. I moved in to University Village, which had been recently purchased by the university. I remember the moment of walking into my new apartment on campus, it was a thrilling time. Caden and I ran through the apartment happily screaming because I was so excited that my dream of attending college was coming true.

Attending Tarleton has been the best choice I have ever made. I know that if I were to have attended a college closer to my hometown, I would not have been so successful. My home town is about three hours’ drive away from here, but it is enough distance that I was able to establish my independence and grow as a person. For example, had I stayed closer to home, I would have constantly asked my mother for help with my son. However, this distance made me learn that you have to have resources other than direct family.

I moved in to UV  and was thrilled to be on campus where I could be more immersed in my education and be the responsible mother that I needed to be. Being on campus made me a more successful student because I was able to connect with other students and be involved. My first year of college, I was not involved in anything. I chose to go to class, do homework and be a mother. But this simply was not fulfilling enough for me. I needed more.

Over the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I started working as a lab assistant in the Numerical Cognition Lab, which I loved. But, this did not quite provide the social interactions that I needed. In the fall, I became the Residential Leader for UV. This position meant the world to me because I could be a resource for others.

Over the duration of my three years as an RL, I worked tirelessly to help make improvements to UV. I met with my supervisors, the Residential Hall Association, and so many more individuals. However, the change that I worked for did not happen.

The purpose of this article is not to relay information about my positive and negative experiences as an RL. Instead, the purpose is to shed light on the importance of family housing as a Tarleton way. Now, the article regarding the closing of UV did not fully cover the future of family housing and while there is one other location for family housing on campus, this is a necessity that cannot be forgotten about. Family housing needs to continue to be an option of the success of non-traditional students and their children.

For example, Caden has lived on a college campus for the majority of his life. Tarleton has been a wonderful location for me to incorporate my child with my education. I would not be who I am today if I had not had the opportunity to live on campus. From Caden going to the Tarleton Child Development Center, to taking him to the Launching of the Ducks, all the way to taking him to class with me, I have been able to show my child how to be successful.

Family housing is a major asset to the Tarleton campus because it makes distant dreams possible for students who come from a vast background. Living on campus made me feel like I was included in the festivities and I was able to get involved. The culture of UV allowed for me to bring my son to social gatherings and connect with other non-traditional students. Some of my best friends at college are other mothers that also lived in UV. Furthermore, I was able to grow as a person by the friendships and the connections I made.

I hope to return to the Tarleton campus someday and the family housing will have more amenities and options for non-traditional students. Hearing about the closing of UV hurt me in a way that I was not expecting it to, but I also realize that the closing is a good thing because another family housing facility could, and should, be built to offer students like me a home. If this campus is going to continue to broadcast a feeling of family on this campus, then the people who are actually raising families on this campus need to be treated better.

Family housing provides the ability for all students to be successful. I am proud to attend a university that has helped me and my son to be happy and successful. I hope that the future family facilities will continue to offer support to non-traditional students, just as it did for me. While I do not expect another facility to be build overnight, I hope that this is not an item that is forgotten. So many students report that they feel at home here, so let’s make this a home for all students.