KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 3, 2021
Between school, work and parenting, Kennesaw State University student Claudia Davis struggled to balance it all.
In 2019, her first year at Kennesaw State, an email landed in her inbox that offered a solution. The email introduced her to a class called Students who Parent, a series of six 60-minute meetings that promised to help her stay on top of her studies and work while raising her son, Brenden.
“The classes offered tips on positive parenting and time management, two things every parent-student struggles with,” said Davis, who plans to major in nursing. “So, a lot of the information they presented to us was very informative and helpful. My son and I both benefited.”
Housed within the Wellstar College of Health and Human Services, Students who Parent provides what program director and research scholar Allison Garefino calls “Two-Generation” interaction. Both parents and children benefit from strategies learned from a facilitator, along with coping mechanisms to make life easier, which is critical during a pandemic when both parents and children have spent increasing amounts of time in the same space.
“It’s so important that programs like this one, which aim to support parents or children, finally understand they must have a two-generation approach,” said Karla Montgomery-Ramirez, a spring graduate from KSU’s Master of Social Work program who helped facilitate Students who Parent workshops. “Knowing that it's not enough to only intervene with either the parent or the child, this approach urges social workers and other mental health practitioners to intervene with both, because we will be more effective and enact change faster.”
Children and Family Programs is a suite of supports and services for students, faculty, staff and community members. Along with Students who Parent, CFP offers social skills training and strategy workshops for parents, workshops in behavior management for teachers, parents and others who work with children, along with other similar services.
One of the unique aspects of the program is that it provides real-world counseling experience to graduate and undergraduate students. Master’s students in social work join undergraduates from various majors interested in studying family issues as facilitators within CFP. Garefino said having MSW students working in her vertically integrated program allowed her to apply for grant money to bring them on as graduate research assistants. Moreover, Garefino said both sets of students gain valuable real-world experience.
“In our internships we work to introduce our emerging professionals to what we call treatment integrity,” she said. “By the time their internship is over they have already done clinical outcome research, and they have been trained to do functional behavioral analysis – great things that make you successful as a social worker or graduate school applicant.”
Montgomery-Ramirez took her experience working with Students who Parent and started Energy WorksATL, a holistic parenting and counseling center, after she graduated with her MSW in May. Even after graduation, she continues to support CFP, pointing out her debt of gratitude to Garefino and the Students who Parent program.
“Thanks to the work that I did with Dr. Garefino while earning my MSW, I found my passion at the intersection between mental health, education and culture,” Ramirez said. “Through my studies and my experience with CFP, I know how important it is for us to give parents evidence-based tools that they can use and that we know are going to work.”
For her part, Davis said that the program helped strengthen her relationship with her son, now in second grade. She has even returned to help Students who Parent as an ambassador, serving as a point of contact and a living testimonial of the program’s effectiveness.
“The support I receive here at KSU as a student-parent has made the burden of being a parent in college a whole lot easier and accepting,” she said. “I don’t feel as if I’m in this alone. I can relate to others who are like me, and that is what helps to keep me going.”
– Dave Shelles
Photos by Jason Getz, submitted
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.