EastBay Today

Posted January 6, 2017

Rising Together

Single mom and student starts club to support parents

Audra Stance and her daughter Auriel, 9, are at the forefront of a new club, S.M.A.R.T., that support parents on the Cal State East Bay campus.

 Cal State East Bay student Audra Stance recently realized she was missing a sense of community at CSUEB. And not just any community — a group of like-minded individuals with whom she shared one special bond: single parenthood.But after looking for an existing club or support group and not finding one, the 34-year-old mother of one decided to form a club of her own: Single Moms Always Rise Together, or S.M.A.R.T. for short.

“I think the club plays a big role in my success as a student,” said single mother Donna Mcclinto, 31. “It’s already allowed me to meet other students in the situation that I’m in, we can guide each other, and it’s a group of people that I share a lot of similarities with.”

Stance, who has a 9-year-old daughter named Auriel, said her goal was to create an organization that could serve as a forum for students to share their experiences, a place to let other student-parents know they are supported, and eventually a way to help each other with daycare.

So far the group has about 10 members, some of whom are single parents, others who are children of single parents and felt called to the group by a sense of understanding and wanting the same community that first inspired Stance.

“My goal is to find students who are in the same situation and create an organization that supports not just single parents, but all parents,” she said.

For the past 17 years, in addition to parenting Auriel, Stance has been working full time as a nursing assistant. She recently applied for the Cal State East Bay nursing program and said she hopes her story of working hard, despite the challenges of single parenting, will not only inspire her daughter, but her peers as well.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, out of 12 million single parent families in 2015, more than 80 percent were headed by single mothers. And according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, student-parents often operate under crushing time demands, including full-time work and an estimated additional 30 hours per week outside of school on caregiving activities. Despite the added challenges however, students with children, statistically have higher GPAs than non-parents.

Larry Bliss, CSUEB’s Academic Advising and Career Education director said students who have a sense of community like Stance and Mcclinto feel with S.M.A.R.T., are typically more successful in their studies.

“Our department encourages students to join clubs as one way to meet other students and develop friendships,” Bliss said. "At Cal State East Bay, there are a large number of clubs and organizations for students to join, and it is very easy to start your own club if nothing that already exists meets your specific interests. As long as participation in the club doesn't become all-consuming, the benefits far outweigh the costs."

For Stance, it’s also a chance for her to inspire others.

“The point of my story is if I can do it, you can too,” she said. “I’m doing it working over 40 hours a week, going to school and trying to move forward. My daughter is happy, loved and doing well in school ... I want to be a support system for other mothers so they can do it all too.”

And since the club is new, Stance is encouraging single mothers at Cal State East Bay and anyone interested in learning more about the club or the activities she hopes to plan in the coming year to reach out via email at astance@horizon.csueastbay.edu or visit the S.M.A.R.T.’s website singlemomsalwaysrisetogether.com. The public is also invited to the S.M.A.R.T. club’s first fundraiser at Acqua E. Farina Italian Restaurant in Hayward on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. For $35, attendees will receive a three-course meal and 25 percent of the bill will be donated to the club.

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