By MELISSA PILEIRO
Regardless of our state in life, most students here at Cumberland will agree that college is far from easy. When you have other responsibilities, however, juggling them along with schoolwork can be even more chaotic. Three CCC students know the meaning of chaos all too well, as they’re dealing with one of life’s most important duties: caring for their children.
Jim Hanna began his college career only two months ago after spending years as a successful retail manager. “I needed a career that was going to be recession-proof,” Hanna said of his decision to enter the Nursing program. Jim’s parents offered to let him spend the work week here in South Jersey, where tuition is cheaper, while his wife and daughter remain with his in-laws in Wayne. The distance presents a challenge for the Hanna family, but it’s nothing that they can’t manage. “We spend weekends together,” Jim said about his wife, Janet, and 9-year-old daughter, Rachel. They talk nightly on the phone, and Jim helps Rachel with her homework. “She’s amused by [me being in school]. It’s a novelty for her.”
Pamela Young, now in her 4th semester as a Paralegal Studies major, has gotten used to the delicate balance of college and parenthood. She said that her husband Kevin keeps her grounded and organized, especially when it comes to their three children (Jaylen, Justyce, and Mikayla). “It requires me to have more patience. Wearing so many hats, dealing with my homework and theirs…I had to come up with many creative ways to manage my schedule.” The key to time management, Young said, is communication. Even single parents can work with the people around them to ensure that their children are taken care of, and the parent has time for coursework.
Ernie Wozunk not only juggles his family and schooling, but a career as well. A subcontractor for GE and father of four girls (Victoria, 8; Natalie, 14; Jennifer, 18; and Stephanie, 20), Ernie first became interested in teaching through his wife, Connie. The added incentive of paid tuition as thanks for his service to the National Guard has Wozunk pursuing a career that he feels will better his family. The transition between worker, father, and student isn’t always seamless, however; he said that “You have to really be able to switch gears and multi-task.” To accomplish this, Ernie takes almost all of his classes in the evening, allowing him to give as much focus to his classes as possible.
These three CCC students are all in very different situations, but there is one thing on which all of them can agree: family comes first. “Discuss your goals and expectations with your family, and get their support. Let them know that you’re doing it to better their lives,” Wozunk said. Young’s thoughts were very similar: “Look into all aspects of going to school, and make sure you can arrange your school around family, and not your family around school. This is my kids’ time—school is secondary.” Jim Hanna agreed, saying that he had his time to be a college student without other responsibilities. Now that he does, the people he loves matter the most. “Go to school while you’re young, because it’s not going to get easier,” he said. “Take your parenthood seriously.”