Area college working on supporting single mother students better

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 7:15 PM CDT
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Western Technical College in La Crosse says it likely has more than 300 single mothers who are also students.

The college was recently accepted into a program to help serve those mothers better.

Tuesday, Western Technical College students will start classes.

For culinary management student Dena Iacono, she not only needs to spend time studying, but also being a single mother.

“One of my struggles is balance-- trying to balance homework, school,” Iacono explained. “Also, trying to balance home life as in cleaning, cooking and doing everything else.”

Iacono also balances her time working to pay bills.

This year, she has added the responsibility of being teacher to five-year-old daughter Olivia with virtual learning.

Wanting to serve all types of students, Western recently applied and was selected as one of eight colleges in the nation to participate in College Success for Single Mothers-- a three-year project that looks to examine and collect data to provide additional support to single parents.

“It’s kind of like a learning community so we can learn alongside the other colleges that are doing the same work and then we receive some coaching and advisement from the project,” said Kari Reyburn, Western director of equity, inclusion, and community engagement.

Reyburn says the school already offers a food pantry, case management, as well as some grants to single mothers.

However, she says the college is working to promote those services better.

“This year I just found out that they pay daycare and for my first-year of college, I paid daycare myself,” Iacono added.

As part of the project, Western received $10,000 to fund surveys and launch actions.

The school also wants to make sure the career of choice for students leads to a live-able wage.

“They’re bringing not just themselves to college, they’re also bringing their families to college and they’re going to need to support that family after they get this degree,” Reyburn said.

“When I am in a time of need, I know that I could call somebody at Western and they’ll be there for me,” Iacono said. “Whether it’s ‘come and get this’ or ‘I’ll email you this’ or ‘I’ll just make your resume for you, don’t even worry about it.’”

Western says it is excited to serve students like Iacono who is on schedule to graduate in May.

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