ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Catherine University is one of 13 schools in the U.S. getting a seal of approval.
The seal is called the FamilyU Seal. The school got the honor because of the way it treats students who are also parents.
For some, going to college is a clear choice. For others, it's a complicated one.
"It was a difficult decision, especially because you feel like you are leaving your kids behind," Joanna Gomez, a senior at St. Catherine University, said.
At 24, Gomez is a proud mom to Penelope and Matthias.
"I just love spending time with my kids. Seeing them grow, their personalities. I just love them. I don't know how to describe it, when you're a mom you just love it," she said.
The best job and, at times, the hardest. She works 4 a.m. shifts as a manager at Dunkin' Donuts, then studies business management at St. Kate's as her mom helps with child care.
"Being a first-time parent, I was scared to go back to school, because you have to put a lot of money into it," Gomez said. "So I wanted a spot, a place where I felt like they would support — get enough support from the staff, and that's why I chose St. Kate's."
St. Kate's was also chosen for a national award for the same reason. The school is being recognized for being one of the most parent-friendly colleges in the nation. Twenty-two percent of students are parents.
"Leaders at St. Kate's noticed student parents were stopping out of school due to a child care or financial emergency, so they started Access and Success with a small grant and it just grew from there," Beth Hamer said.
Hamer heads the Access and Success program at St. Kate's. They offer a play area for students, get-togethers for student parents and deep emotional support — support Gomez needed when she experienced the loss of a child from stillbirth.
"I felt lost, I was hurt. Losing a child is really hard," Gomez said. "I was able to connect with a social worker here. And if it wasn't for her I probably would have quit school."
But she didn't and she is in good company.
"Their GPA averages are on the higher end as compared to our general student population," Hamer said. "They are very uber-organized. They know how to schedule their time, organize their time because they don't have very much of it."
Gomez will be graduating in the spring, with even more to be proud of.
The group, Generation Hope, which works to give parents support to graduate nationally, gave St. Catherine University the FamilyU Seal.
Gomez said she is looking for an internship as she is soon to launch her business career.
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