by Pamela Young, Published January 04, 2011
YPSILANTI - Higher education might seem impossible for young, single parents, but, thanks to the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, that goal will soon be within reach at Eastern Michigan University.
A specially designed pilot program, called "Keys to Degrees," will offer young parents the opportunity to earn a bachelor's degree in three years. The program will provide assistance in balancing academics, work and family obligations. It will also educate student-parents and their children on campus while helping them develop into active, contributing members of the community.
The program begins in summer 2011. It is designed to have the students live on campus in University apartments, attend classes year-round, and, depending on the major selected, to be eligible to graduate in three years.
In addition, participants will have mentors with experience in their chosen career path, along with structured internship opportunities and ongoing guidance and instruction from campus and community resources. Children will attend the EMU Children's Institute on campus.
"Single parents have been historically marginalized and shut out of higher education, due, in large measure, to the expense of high quality, licensed childcare," said Lynette Findley, assistant vice president of retention and student success at EMU. "This program is an outstanding opportunity to serve the large number of single parents in the greater metro Detroit area in order to improve quality of life for them and for their children."
The Keys to Degrees program is open to low-income men and women, ages 18-24, each with only one child age 18 months or older when the program begins. The program will initially be limited to ten student-parents entering their freshman year.
Once accepted, students will live in a learning community that provides structure, academic and personal support, connections to campus and community resources, skill development through workshops, and the tools essential to excel and balance their demands. Enrichment sessions will address the students' unique needs and interests.
"This is a residential program focused on reducing distractions and barriers that often hinder students from earning a college degree," said Elise Buggs, program director.
"Participants will explore EMU and engage in academic and personal activities to expand themselves and positively affect the community. The students will live closely together on campus. We plan to host workshops and semi-annual retreats focused on their unique needs and interests. In addition, Keys to Degrees will coordinate services with various departments that offer tutoring and coaching to all EMU students."
Eastern Michigan will recruit alumni, staff and community residents with specific experience to mentor the students, Buggs said.
Said Findley: "We're looking for internships, and hope to create alliances with nonprofit organizations. We're also looking at hosting fund-raising events for the program."
Funded through a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the project is a joint initiative with Endicott College in Beverly, MA. Eastern Michigan's program will replicate Endicott's, which was established in 1992.
Under this grant, Eastern and Endicott will collaborate to replicate the program at two additional Michigan colleges during 2011.
The ultimate goal is to help bring national attention to the need for more residential programs for single parents across the country, Findley said.
To find out more about the program, call program director Elise Buggs at (734) 487-8041 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About W.K. Kellogg Foundation:
Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families, and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and southern Africa.
About Endicott College:
Located in Beverly, Massachusetts on 231 acres of oceanfront property, Endicott College offers master's and bachelor's degree programs in the professional and liberal arts. Founded in 1939, Endicott provides an education built upon a combination of theory and practice, which is tested through internships and work experience. There are approximately 2,200 undergraduate and more than 2,000 adult and graduate students.