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‘It’s never too late’

Parents in college balance two kinds of stress

Dakota Parker
Dakota Parker

Going to college can be difficult, but going to college with kids can be absolute chaos.

Imagine balancing not only a full load of classes, but parenthood amid all the stress. However, Lamar students with children are finding a way to do what they need to do to get a degree.

“I got tired of how limited the job pool was without a college degree,” Dakota Parker, Orange freshman, said. “So, I decided to take a leap into the unknown and try to balance all these insane schedules.”

Sometimes, it’s about timing. Denise Cassady, Friendswood senior, has a three-year-old son.

“I was in college from 2011-2014 and took a four-year break to have Dom,” she said. “I was only a year away from finishing my degree. It seemed silly to do all that work and not finish.”

Busy college and work schedules can influence parenting, too. Parker has a six-year-old daughter.

“I don’t get much time with her considering I work full time and go to school full time,” he said. “It also doesn’t help that I’m divorced, so I don’t live with my daughter. I see her maybe two to three times a week for half the day, then she goes back to stay with her mother.”

Cassaday said she works her class schedule around her parenting responsibilities.

“I block my classes as close together as possible, so that I can be efficient with my time on campus and present for my child when I’m home,” she said.

But having children hasn’t dampened the film maker’s aspirations.

“I want to become a screenwriter,” Cassaday said. “Feature length screenwriters are typically freelance, so it’s a good fit.”

Parker is also an aspiring screenwriter.

Denise Cassady
Denise Cassady

“I’ve always enjoyed any piece of fiction I could get my hands on to watch, read, breakdown or study,” he said. “My dream developed into wanting to write and tell stories that people could enjoy. I want to build worlds that people can lose themselves in, and write characters that can speak to the human experience.”

Parker tries to involve his daughter in his projects, which he said enhances the experience.

“I get to share with her what I learn, and it fascinates her,” he said. “I get to take her to film shoots, and she loves to help with anything she can get her hands on. She’s even starred in one of my student projects. She was so enthusiastic to get to act that she could barely follow direction and just wanted to get on screen as soon as possible.”

Cassaday said she already had experience balancing a hectic schedule with children.

“Prior to having my child, I was a nighttime nanny for four kids — three were under the age of five,” she said. “Their mother was a bartender, so I stayed at their house from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. Once the kids went to bed, I had free study time.”

Parker said being a parent makes it difficult to really experience being a student.

“No time, no sleep, no student-related activities,” he said. “Any free time that I get I want to devote to her, homework, or sleep. I almost feel guilty sometimes, chasing a dream and knowing that if I can’t succeed in pulling it off, I’ll have wasted thousands of dollars and made providing for our family and providing for her future even harder.”

Despite the hardships, college is an experience Parker and Cassaday hope to share with their kids one day.

“The positive thing is showing my son at an early age how important college is and how to work hard and persevere,” Cassaday said.

It’s never too late to go back, Parker said.

“While it’s hard, and you will find yourself stressed and strained, getting an education is worth it,” he said. “Being a parent is one of the greatest joys in my life, and regardless of how stressed, tired and overworked I am, her smile makes everything worth it.”

Story by Rachel Hellums, UP contributor

Category: Features