After giving birth at the start of her freshman year, Ellen DeCastro had to miss the first three weeks of school. When she returned to campus, DeCastro said she struggled to find the information she needed to make up the work she had missed.
“No one really knew who I should talk to in order to take the time off,” DeCastro said. “This got me thinking that we need to compile all of these resources together for student parents to use when they need it.”
Hoping to help other student parents at UT, DeCastro, a government and humanities sophomore, is launching a University organization to provide these students resources for navigating college life.
As a new parent, DeCastro said she wanted to find a way to share her compiled resources — such as a list of daycares in Austin and tips for class scheduling and study time management — to other student parents.
After getting in contact with Michael Knox, a student development specialist for the School of Undergraduate Studies, she created the new organization. The group will become an official student organization once it reaches the required number of members, which DeCastro said she is hoping to get by the time school starts
“Having a resource where students can go to get information is what UT is all about,” Knox said. “Trying to create inclusivity and bring awareness to underrepresented groups is one purpose of this organization.”
DeCastro said along with the list of resources, she is also looking to establish a community for student parents.
“Balancing studies and being a parent is a very unique experience,” DeCastro said. “Having a community where you understand these experiences and support each other is very valuable, and it doesn’t have to be hard.”
History and government senior Sean Salome, whose child was born during his first semester at UT, said he faced many challenges as a student parent and knows how hard it can be to find the right resources. Salome said he was fortunate to be a student veteran, which allowed him to use UT’s veterans services.
“They were able to help me and guide me to find the right resources,” Salome said. “But if I did not have that service available to me, then I would be struggling, and even with their help I still struggled to find the support of fellow student parents.”
DeCastro said she looks forward to providing students with a community of support and resources in the fall.
“The more we can come together and support each other, the more we can have a community and make things more enjoyable,” DeCastro said. “It will not only make things easier but will hopefully inspire students who may be thinking of having children or wanting to have children but are not wanting to stop going to school.”