University of Nebraska at Omaha public health major Serena Moore said when she found out she was pregnant her sophomore year of college, her family suggested she and her boyfriend drop out.
Moore and her now-fiancé ignored that advice, and the semester Moore gave birth to her daughter, Layla Smith, she made the dean’s list.
Moore said there was a distinct lack of support on campus for students who may also be parents.
“From just the struggle of having a baby here and being a mom at the university level, it can be very stressful if you don’t have a support system,” Moore said. “You’re pretty much labeled as an outcast.”
Moore, with the help of her Project Achieve Advisor Cindy Siadek, decided to create Caring Resources and Nurturing Environment or CRANE, an organization that would provide resources and a network of support for students experiencing a similar situation.
“She [Moore] came to me and said, ‘you know what, I just want to let you know I found out that I’m pregnant, but I don’t want that to derail my academic track at all. I want to be done with this semester in December with good grades,’” Siadek said.
Siadek also said she was impressed by Moore’s commitment to her education.
“Students struggle on a daily basis to keep up with college demands, and here’s a young lady who is working and going to school with dreams and plans and is not going to let being pregnant derail her,” she said. “Rather, she seems to be fighting against the tide and making it all work.”
“I just want to bring more awareness that parents do exist, don’t take away my rights as a student because I am also a mom,” Moore said.
Siadek said that just as the idea for CRANE was forming, another student joined the cause.
Lashira Lemons is a black studies major, a site coordinator for the Urban League of Nebraska and the mother of a 14-year-old daughter.
“Lashira came to our program, and in her interview, I learned that she was also a single parent and I thought, well I had one, and now I have two,” Siadek said.
“My part in the CRANE program will be personal and professional development and organizing and planning,” Lemons said. “Basically, how do you be a student, a mom and just a human, how do you do it all?”
Lemons said that within a year, she hopes to see more empowered parents graduating from college with a plan and goals set, and she sees a lot of value in providing parents with these resources.
“I think it’s going to help students to finish their degree,” Lemons said. “I think that’s the main thing, it will encourage them to complete their degree and then they can provide a better life for their children. Being a single parent is a super power.”
After graduating, Lemons plans to work on a master’s in urban education
Moore said her ultimate goal is to have her daughter walk the stage with her at graduation.