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University is a big learning experience. Most of what you need to know is all there, written down in textbooks. Unfortunately for Kyle Gaudreau-Fontaine, parenting isn’t covered in any liberal arts course.
Fontaine is a second year criminology and psychology student at St. Thomas University. In four weeks, Kyle will sweat over papers, books, and changing diapers. Kyle’s daughter Jordyn is on her way.
St. Thomas University offers services to young student parents, but not those one might think. For Kyle, it may be a struggle to learn and parent all at once.
Although Kyle had talked about children with his girlfriend Michelle Black, he was shocked when he heard she was pregnant.
“I think everyone who is having a baby, you wonder if you are ready to have a child or not. It doesn’t matter how old you are and how much life experience you have, you’re always wondering how good of a parent you’ll be to the baby,” says Kyle.
Growing up in a family with many children, Kyle gained experience with child care.
“We were four kids, so the house was pretty hectic at some time. So you learn to be patient,” says the 21-year-old who helped his mother care for his younger brother and sister.
The student from Windsor, Quebec, is expecting a lot of changes once his daughter is born.
“I think my social life will be gone. I’ll also have to time manage a whole lot better. School and volunteering and working. I’ll be pretty busy.”
With a big support system at home, Kyle feels relieved. He’s lucky. Many parents who attend university don’t have the luxury. Kyle’s friends and family have helped him cover every material need for the baby.
“I didn’t think it would take such a long time gathering everything. We slowly collected things together and as all the physical things came together, all the emotions were settling in,” says Kyle.
“I’m looking forward to seeing her. Seeing her smiling and hearing her.”
Once the baby is here, Kyle will receive financial assistance from his student loans from Quebec.
The financial assistance is nice, but he will have to pay it back eventually. While STU provides for students with children, Kyle is confused as to where to go and who to ask for help.
While financial aid is great, he thinks childcare services are more important. In his opinion, these services would encourage students with children to attend their courses on a more regular base.
STU’s director of Student Services and Residence Life, Nancy O’Shea, says there are two child care centers close to STU; the Regent Day Care Center and the College Hill Daycare Coop. STU pays the latter to keep priority spots for affiliates.
In January 2012, Laura Brown reported for the AQ on the lack of child care facilities around STU. At that time, there was a “significant waiting list”, meaning that with 60 spaces the College Hill Daycare Coop was “over-subscribed.” Student Nesha Bertin had to put her name on a four-year waiting list.
Jeffrey Carleton, director of communications at STU, said to Brown, “’We know that there are limitations we have here at St.Thomas in regards to a physical location we could provide. It’s costly to set up the actual infrastructure needed … but you’re always looking for a way to accommodate a student.’”
There have been no changes. Even though STU is not offering a private day care, Nancy O’Shea says that student parents can always ask for services such as financial aid or academic counselling.
Student Services, located on George Martin Hall’s third floor, offer support concerning courses, employment, potential scholarships and other financial backing. O’Shea suggests students form a parenting support group or attend parenting, stress management or life-school-balance workshops. Student Services can help put it all together.
“We can plan, all we need is interest andstudents are always more than welcome to come to talk to us.” saysNancy O’Shea.
Kyle Gaudreau-Fontaine says that he will reach out to STU when he needs help.
For now, he thinks he’s okay.
“But I could be naïve saying that,” he says.
“As soon as the baby’s here, I assume that we’re just gonna forget everything and this instinct will tell you what to do. It’s a huge learning experience.”