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Young Student Parent Support Initiative

One year.

One year is essentially all the time amanda toppe has until the money runs out. One year is all the time she has to prove to the administration her program is worth continuing.
The program
toppe, an SCSU gradu- ate and the coordinator of the newly-implemented Young Student Parent Sup- port initiative, is the sole disseminator of all the re- sources which are a part of this new program at SCSU.
there are two goals for this program, toppe said. The first is giving young parents the resources needed to complete their higher education goals. the second, she said, is health focused.
toppe said it is impor- tant for pregnant and par- enting students to maintain positive health and well- being for their children as
well as themselves. the program focuses
mainly on men and women who fall in the age group of 18 to 25, toppe said. while the program focuses on that specific age group, toppe said it is inclusive
to student-parents who are older as well.
“although that [age group] is the focus, i don’t want people to be deterred to be a part of it,” she said.
One personal goal toppe has for the program is to start a student-parent support center. She said she is still looking for a space to help build this community. Her office is currently serv- ing as that space. it is vital, she said, to have a place where student-parents feel welcome.
“it’s a place where student-parents can connect to each other, where they can connect to resources on campus and resources in the community,” toppe said.

This program reaches even further than just giving parents a place on campus where they feel welcome, however.
“I really believe that people who have never been in college, or have never even tried, should also be able to be a part of those who walk through the front door, but not only walk through the front door but persist and fin- ish and walk across the stage as well,” said Debra Carlson, director of the Lindgren Child Care Center. “Sup- portive higher education is a public good.”
Carlson also said she strongly believes in Min- nesota needing an educated labor force.
The grant
The program received $280,000 in grant money from the Minnesota Depart- ment of Health, which came from the federal level, Toppe said.
Carlson was the one who wrote that grant for the program.
“I had been aware that the Minnesota Department of Health would be compet- ing for federal grant money that was going to be the source for this Young Student Parent Support Initiative,” Carlson said, adding she watched the process closely for about a year.
The actual writing of the grant took about one month, she said, making sure it was clear the process wasn’t a 40 hour a week job.
The government shut- down last year set the start of the program back signifi- cantly.
The shutdown last sum- mer was for three weeks but it really set everything back two months, Carlson said. They were not notified until August of being awarded the money and it wasn’t until Novem- ber that the money became available.
“It was technically a two-year grant, but with the government shutdown last summer and we didn’t receive the money until November and I didn’t start until March. So really we have one full year to do all this,” Toppe said.
“I believe, fundamentally, in the work of the grant. I think that it really is impor- tant,” Carlson said. “As an institution, St. Cloud State University is also a great home to try and administer a federal grant.”
SCSU is not the only higher education institution in the state to receive money for similar programs. An updated list as of
May 10 shows nine institu- tions other than SCSU who received grant money.
Century College, Fond du Lac Tribal College, Leech Lake Tribal College, Metro- politan State University, Pine Technical College, River- land Community College, St. Catherine University, University of Minnesota and Winona State University are the other institutions that received money.
The U of    M and St. Kate’s already had programs so they received money to do some more intensive pro- gramming for new parents, Toppe said.
The implementation
There are always going to be challenges to any new program and one of the big- gest challenges Toppe said she faces is how busy these parents are.
“The challenge is con- necting with these student- parents who are so busy. Just setting up a time to meet with them, getting them the information they need,” she said, adding so far it has pretty much just been word of mouth.
Finding student-parents is another major challenge to the success of this program. Currently there are 12 people in the program, Toppe said, and so far it is going well.
The program is going to be relationship based and building those relationships is going to be key, she said.
Possibly the biggest chal- lenge, however, is being able to prove this program is mak- ing a difference.
The Department of Health is working diligently to ensure their assessment measures are clear as well as making sure they are easily collected and recorded and transmissible across the dif- ferent institutions, Carlson said. Being able to say this many people benefited by this program and were able to continue their education because this program exists is going to be instrumental in the decision of whether to continue the program.
Showing the hard num- bers is a necessity, she said.
There are other good reasons to convince admin- istrators these programs are worth keeping around. It’s not just bringing students to campus, but that’s a big part of it, Carlson said.
Another big part of the initiative is getting students to complete their education, not just getting them through the door in the first place, she said.
Ideally the program would continue after August and grow and grow and grow, Toppe said.
Currently, the program is slated for completion in August of 2013.

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