Written By Omar Almaraz Villanueva (He/Him)
When Giselle began her journey for higher education at Fresno City College in August of 2017, she was an ambitious student and a soon-to-be mom. The very next month in September, Edvan Figueroa was born, making Giselle a Student-Parent.
Giselle recalls her first few months as a student parent as being extremely difficult. Amongst the biggest of challenges she faced, was simply completing homework.
She says, “As a parent you already have to stay up late to take care of your kids and by the end of the day you just want to relax” And so, Giselle sought to complete assignments during the only time she could, when Edvan was asleep. However, the constant thought of homework and assignments always added additional stress.
She recalls often having meltdowns especially when Edvan became sick. Having to find babysitters, plan out her days, and tend to Edvan became overwhelming when she still had to worry about school and work the next day. The thought of her child never went away and permanently stays in the back of her mind. Giselle found support within her parents, fiance's parents, and Edvan's dad. Giselle gives credit to the village it took to raise Edvan. Most stress, problems, and responsibilities fell on her.
Edvan is responsible for teaching Giselle to always see the good in herself and her actions. Her experiences as a student parent taught her to have patience and improve her time management skills. “Everything has to be thought out to a certain point, everything you do or do not do affects how your child sees you.” Edvan saw nothing but good in his hardworking mother. Giselle acknowledges that while Edvan was growing up, so was she - they grew up together.
Wrapping up her first year at college in the spring semester of 2018, she ultimately failed all her classes. During this time she struggled to attend class and responsibilities as she prioritized Edvan - a struggle that many student parents experience, given that over 52% of student parents dropped out of college before attaining their degree between 2019 through 2020 (U.S. Government Accountability Office).
During the fall of 2018 her grades improved with the help of a “fresh start” due to the new academic year. Giselle graduated from Fresno City College in May of 2020 with an associates degree in administration justice. Soon she transferred to Fresno State University where she majored in criminology specializing in law enforcement.
“Growing up was scary, I was not expecting to grow up so fast, I had to step it up.”
Giselle advises other student-parents to not lose themselves along the way. One of her mistakes was blocking herself off from everyone in times of crisis. To reward yourself and simply give yourself time. Giselle is proof that with patience and determination, you will find the motivation to keep going and succeed as a student-parent.
Gisselle pictured with Edvan during her Fresno State graduation.
As a student-parent you may see yourself struggling, failing in one way or another; but continuing your education is a wonderful thing.
“Sometimes you may see yourself as a failure, but your child will never see you that way.” - Gisselle
Gisselle’s struggles are not new; across the nation and in the Central Valley there is a dire need to support, advocate, and create resources for student parents. Gisselle’s story and experiences share an important lesson. They share the adversities that student parents face on their journeys to higher education, and they give insight to the necessary transformations in our current reality in order to create a world in which education is accessible to all.
We thank Giselle for her life lessons, and we call all educational institutions; public schools, colleges, universities, and non-profit organizations (ourselves included), to do better.