For the second consecutive year, OSU Institute of Technology was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma for programs supporting students who are single parents.
Grants were available to all Oklahoma public college and universities in support of services for single mother students. The initiative began in 2015 when the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma awarded their first seven grants to Oklahoma educational institutions.
Sable Vasquez, special event and retention coordinator, is the grant’s facilitator and said it was an honor to be one of only 14 schools to receive a grant, and one of only seven to be awarded a full $5,000 grant.
“This will allow us to continue our efforts in supporting single parent students at OSUIT while they pursue their education to make a better life for themselves and their children,” Vasquez said. “Single parents are juggling a lot while they are trying to reach their goals, so any extra resources or support we can provide is substantial in their time at OSUIT.”
After being awarded the grant last year, Vasquez said the funds were used to establish the Single Parent Support Group on campus; provide some emergency transportation funding; survey single mothers on campus to gauge their support needs; and start a campus Blessing Box that will open in July so students can discreetly receive items of need for themselves or their children.
“With this year’s funding we plan to host a Single Parent Enrollment Night. This event will allow our single parents to come at a time that is more convenient to them to complete their enrollment,” she said. “The parents will be encouraged to bring their children because we will provide childcare and activities for kids. This will allow the parents time to concentrate on their advisement and enrollment.”
The Single Parent Support Group will also continue with new guest speakers and presentations, and grant funds will also be used to create a resource guide for OSUIT single parents.
One way OSUIT faculty and staff can better serve single parent students, and specifically single mothers, is to be more approachable, Vasquez said.
“Students don’t realize the resources that are available to them. A student could be struggling in class because they are hungry and don’t know we have resources to help that student. Be approachable so they feel comfortable talking to you about their needs. We don’t want students to fail and drop out because they aren’t aware of the different ways we can help them,” she said.
According to the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma, the state is the second worst in the United States for women, and ranks No. 1 in the nation and the world for its female incarceration rate.
“Single parents, and especially mothers, need to complete their degrees so they are better equipped to provide financially for their family. There are too many negative barriers that affect single mothers,” Vasquez said. “Creating opportunities and support networks for women who are already taking the steps toward educational attainment is so important to help strengthen family well-being and economic security for these folks. We need to help build opportunities, not create more barriers, so it’s very important for OSUIT to create programs and resources to support this specific demographic.”