Osbon attends DeVry University in Nashville, and on Monday she had no choice but to bring her son Xzavier to class. Being that he's 2, little Xzavier toddled up to Professor Joel Bunkowske while he was in the middle of a lecture, and wanted to be held. (To hell with boundaries, toddlers say!) Instead of chastising Osbon for bringing her son to class or stopping the lesson, Bunkowske, without skipping a beat, picked Xzavier up and continued class with the tot in his arms:
This news story could have gone one of two ways: We could have stumbled upon a depressing and infuriating headline that read something along the lines of "Heartless Professor Kicks Single Mom Out of Class for Bringing Baby," and of course, a heated debate about where children should and shouldn't be would have followed. But we didn't. Because someone simply did the kind thing. From the sound of things, the way Bunkowske, who's a Harvard-educated lawyer, handled the situation didn't interrupt the class in the slightest. He didn't make a big deal of things but, knowing his student was struggling with child care — and still made it to class — acted with compassion. Obson, who noted that most of the people in her class are parents, said her professor said that everybody struggles, and that's OK.
Single parents who work and/or go to school need not only to be recognized for all the amazing things they do and hardships they deal with but also compassion. They need things to be easier on them. And sometimes, like in Obson's case, they need to be the exception to the rule. It's the right thing to do.
For single mothers struggling to make ends meet, getting a college degree can be crucial. It can be the thing that catapults them into the middle class and helps them find a career they're passionate about. Sadly, though, going to university when you don't have a partner to help contribute is hardly an easy road. As a study from UCLA notes, "Many single mothers may 'stop out,' or take a break when finances or family issues make it impossible to continue in their studies. For many, completing a degree can take anywhere from six to fifteen years." Child care almost always plays a role in this. If more colleges had child care — or professors willing to hold babies! — more single mothers would finish school in a timely manner, allowing them to better provide for themselves and their family.
That said, the sad reality is that flexible, on-campus child care is extremely rare — but it makes such a difference when it is available. One study found the success rate of students with children who had access to campus child care was 26 percent higher than in the general student population. That's amazing! However, another report found that "campus childcare counted only 54,400 slots available on campuses nationwide." That amounts to barely 5 percent of the estimated need.
Whether or not Professor Bunkowske is aware of these statistics is really neither here nor there. He saw a single mother show up for class despite not being able to find child care, and he helped her out. And until more resources are available to single parents who are in college, that's the absolute best we can do. May he be an example to all of us.
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