An estimated 20–30% of Leeward Community College students are parents, juggling multiple responsibilities. Leeward CC aims to help change the lives of these ʻohana by expanding family-integrated academic offerings for current and prospective student-parents with the help of a grant.
“I had my daughter during a long break that I took from college. Returning was very difficult as a parent,” said Kelli Alyssa Soma, a Leeward CC student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. “If Leeward provided more opportunities to include families in classes and assignments, more student-parents would likely find the motivation to go to (or return to) school, and this would inspire youth as well, seeing their parents go to school.”
Leeward CC faculty group Leeward Hui ʻOhana was one of six recipients (out of more than 100 applicants) chosen for a $12,500 award from the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund. The fund was established by Ascend at the Aspen Institute, an organization that helps build intergenerational family prosperity and well-being.
“Our parenting students will be able to complete homework while also spending quality time with their children,” said Assistant Professor Ashley Biddle, who co-founded Leeward Hui ʻOhana.
Leeward CC student Genesis Tanuvasa, a new member of the Parenting Student Advisory Board, which was formed recently with the help of the grant, is the mother of two children under 3-years-old.
“We (student-parents) have children to care for, jobs, homework to finish, and so much more that needs to be done within a day’s work,” Tanuvasa said. “Mental, financial and physical help from anyone is very much appreciated.”
Some of the support services Leeward CC provides that help student-parents, include The Children’s Center, which offers preschool for children of enrolled students, food pantry Hānai iā Leeward, mental health and wellness counseling, and the Student Health Center, which also offers telemedicine appointments. Leeward Hui ʻOhana also supplies a swap-and-share space and has a partnership with the Aloha Diaper Bank.
“Through the Parent-Powered Solutions Fund, we will be able to develop curricula and provide holistic support to those balancing child-care and academic responsibilities,” added Michelle Igarashi, dean of Arts and Sciences. “We look forward to enhancing our institution’s offerings and supporting our community through this partnership.”
—By Erin Maruoka