How To Thrive As A Single Parent Student

To start, remember that you have got this! You are starting an adventure that will have lasting impacts on you and your family, regardless of your starting support network size.  You can do this.

Here are a few tips to make the transition a little less stressful as you go back to school:

Start Building a Support Network

The more support you have through your college experience, even if it is just for yourself, the better it will be in the long run for you and your kids. We’ll talk about some support network ideas for the kids in just a moment.

Begin in your school’s student success center. In the business school, they have been a great resource for me. They have assisted me with my resume and they have been an encouragement for so much of the hard steps.

They even made a way for me to have access to career fairs that would have been difficult to attend with my daughter.  The first semester of the evening career fair, they even offered to watch her! The second semester, they asked a MISA (Management Information Student Association) member to watch children for the event. That is an amazing resource!  They have been incredibly good to me. They would not have known my need, however if I had not taken the first step to meet with them.

Meet with your Professors

I cannot stress enough how vital this is. Your professors want you to succeed and want to help you!

Every professor in and out of my major has been wonderful. I do feel like I was incredibly blessed haven chosen the MIS degree path. My professors have supported, encouraged, given hard advice, and pushed me to be the best I could be and not limit myself because of the fact that I am a single mom and a non-traditional student. I have signed a contract for an amazing career, before I graduate, because of my professors.

They did things that made it easier for me to succeed. For example, I brought my daughter to class on the days when she was out of school in the middle of the week.

Here is the truth though, I emailed or talked to my professors to make sure it was okay to bring her with me.  I never wanted them to think I took it for granted and I wanted them to have an option to say no. They have never not allowed me to bring her with me. Every time I have needed to bring my daughter, all of my professors have been gracious towards me and her.

Do Not Limit Yourself to Just Your College

Ask about resources that will help you succeed in your learning and then follow up and utilize them.  Need help with writing? Go to the writing center. If you have a kid that is young enough to go to ASUM childcare, utilize that resource. If you need help with almost any high fail rate class, there is a study jam or tutoring to be found in the evenings or in the Lomasson building.

The generosity of faculty, staff and other students,  was one of the things that most surprised me in this experience as a non-traditional single parent student.

Photo by Laurent Peignault on Unsplash

Support For Your Child

How Do You Balance Homework And Parenting?

My daughter was 8-years-old when I began school, so we were able to have conversations about what it was like to be in college from the start. We do a lot of talking through her feelings when it gets hard and she feels like she is not getting the level of attention that she needs. I try to be as validating as possible about how challenging it can be for her, too.

We make compromises as well. So, for example, I will set a timer for ten minutes and I will stop working on homework once that goes off just to be present with her. I will sometimes set another timer to know when to get back to my assignments.

 How Do You Handle Out Of School Days While Still Having Class?

I typically take my daughter with me. She gets screen time during the classes, which is a treat for her. Plus, I let her know that I am excited that she gets to attend class with me. Like I said before, my professors have been very kind to her and I have also found that other students make her feel welcome to be in the class.

Another option, here in Missoula, are drop-in daycare centers. The one that I will use on occasion is very loving and my daughter feels safe there.

How Do You Handle Your Child Being Sick?

The university does not have a great solution for sick kids.  However,  after growing my friend base and support group, I have found that there are some faculty, staff and other students are willing to help me and not just from my own college.  I have also found that my professors have been very understanding through the process of having a sick child.  So seriously, talk to your professors!

Conclusion

The building of a support network is very important to your success as a student. I believe that if you are willing to put yourself out there and be friendly, you will be able to have the support group that you need.  I have found that the University of Montana’s faculty, staff and students are an incredible group of people that, on the whole, want to be in your corner as you pursue your educational goals!

Photo by guille pozzi on Unsplash

 

 

Mandy Fischer is a single parent to an amazing 10-year-old daughter. She will be graduating the Spring of 2020 from the University of Montana with a Business Management Information Systems degree. She recently accepted a position with Deloitte that begins after graduation and is excited for the future!

Private Prisons Are Unethical, Dysfunctional, and Should Be Closed

Private Prisons Should Be Closed

When a father went to visit his son in a private prison, the staff told him his son was not there and that they didn’t know where he was.  After 6-weeks, he found his son in a local hospital.  His son had suffered severe brain damage and now has the mental capacity of a two-year old.  He was injured in a brawl that investigators found was instigated by a guard who was running a prison fight club.

If you were incarcerated, wouldn’t you want the state to ensure your safety and that your rights would not be abused?  As taxpayers, you should be concerned about how your money is used to fund these unsafe and inefficient private prisons. From the research I have gathered, it is apparent that the use of private prisons has too many trade-offs to be considered viable due to their widespread issues of cost effectiveness and mistreatment of prisoners. Throughout this post, I’ll explain the advantages of ending the use of private prisons, which are: an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding.

In the U.S., not all prisons are run by the government.  Some are operated by private companies that the government pays to house prisoners.  The three largest companies are the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation.  Operations of these prisons are handled by these companies instead of the government.

The first advantage is that public prisons would focus more on rehabilitation than private prisons because the government does not benefit from repeat offenders. Private prisons claim they can lower recidivism (reoffending) rates with state-of-the-art rehabilitation programs. However, according to Anita Mukherjee’s August 10, 2016, study in the Social Science Research Network, prisoners in Mississippi’s private prisons recidivated no less than public prisoners despite serving more time (Mukherjee 2016). Brian Kincade cites a study of recidivism rates in private prisons in Oklahoma in his March 23, 2016, article in Smart Asset that found private prisoners recidivated 4% more than their public counterparts (Kincade 2016). State of the art rehabilitation programs would cut into corporate profits and would interfere with the steady flow of incarcerations private prisons depend on to make a profit. Public prisons do not operate to make a profit.  They have more of an incentive to properly rehabilitate prisoners to lower crime rates.  Because with lower crime rates, the government saves money and society is overall safer. Now that I’ve discussed why rehabilitation will be focused on more, I’ll explain how prisoners will be properly treated.

The second advantage is that states would directly oversee the treatment of prisoners and ensure their rights are not abused. One example of prisoner mistreatment is the conditions that led to the recent closure of a GEO Group prison in Mississippi.  The Southern Poverty Law Center wrote about the conditions on their website on September 15th, 2016 (SPLC 2016). Department of Justice investigators found frequent sexual abuse, widespread violence, and that the prison was controlled by gangs with help from the guards. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves found the state was violating the rights of prisoners by not protecting them from the gang control and stated “the evidence…paints a picture of a facility struggling with disorder, periodic mayhem, and staff ineptitude which leads to perpetual danger of the inmates and staff”. These are not isolated incidents and issues like these are widespread in private prisons across the country. The federal government itself has stated that private prisons run less safely than public prisons.  An August 18th, 2016, article by Gwendolyn Wu published by TakePart cites that Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said that private prisons “compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities…they simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources…[and] they do not maintain the same level of safety or security.” (Wu 2016). States can provide better quality treatment to prisoners and can directly oversee that the rights that they guarantee the prisoners are not abused. Now that I’ve discussed how states will directly oversee that prisoners are treated properly; I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons will not increase costs.

The third advantage is that states would not be taking on new (long-term) costs and in many cases, states would save money by ending their use of private prisons. On paper, many private prisons seem to have a lower per diem rate (per prisoner cost) than public prisons, however they aren’t paying for the same things that states must. In his 2016 article in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, Alex Friedmann lists the many ways private prisons offset their costs to the public in order for their per diem rate to appear lower than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). They tend to only house low-security healthy adult males, the least expensive type of prisoner to house.  This leaves the most expensive prisoners for the states to house. States still have to pay for medical care for prisoners in private prisons. Wages paid to prisoners in private prisons are reimbursed by the state.  In one year, the Corrections Corporation of America saved $30-66 million and the GEO Group saved $33-72 million from not paying prisoner wages. After adjusting for these factors and others, Alex Friedmann wrote in the same article that in many states private prisons were more expensive than public prisons (Friedmann 2016). States would be paying just as much if not less to house prisoners in their own prisons.  The only new cost they would be taking on would be the short-term cost of buying the private prisons that aren’t already being rented from the states. Now that I’ve explained how costs of prison operation will not increase, I’ll explain how ending the use of private prisons would force officials to rethink harsh laws that have contributed to overcrowding.

The fourth advantage is that by ending the use of private prisons, companies would no longer lobby for harsh punishments, forcing officials to reevaluate tough on crime laws to deal with overcrowding. Harsh penalties for non-violent offenders are the major causes of overcrowding. Michael Cohen cites many cases of private prison companies spending millions of dollars in campaign contributions and lobbying in his April 28th, 2015, article published in the Washington Post (Cohen 2016). The GEO Group and the Corrections Corporation of America have paid over $10 million in campaign contributions and over $25 million for lobbying. They lobby for laws that will punish non-violent offenders harshly and contribute to candidates who will vote for these laws and who will give the companies lucrative contracts. By eliminating the use of private prisons, government officials would no longer receive monetary incentives to harshly punish petty offenders.  Ending the use of private prisons to combat overcrowding would force lawmakers to reevaluate these severe penalties.

I’ve told you about four advantages of ending the use of private prisons; an increased focus on rehabilitation, better treatment of prisoners, similar or lower costs of operation, and a reevaluation of the harsh penalties that have contributed to overcrowding. With these advantages in mind, states should end their use of private prisons. The young man I mentioned at the beginning of my speech could’ve had a brighter future if he was housed in a public prison.  Instead of suffering debilitating brain damage, he would’ve been properly rehabilitated, and after serving his time he could’ve returned to the general public and contributed to society.

 

References

Barbaric private prison in Mississippi closes its doors after SPLC lawsuit. (2016, September 15). The Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved from https://www.splcenter.org

Cohen, Michael. (2015, April 28). How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com

Friedmann, Alex. (2016). Apples-to-fish: Public and private prison cost comparisons. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 42(2), 502-568. Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu

Gilna, Derek. (2016, September 6). GEO Texas immigration facility hit for substandard health care and understaffing. Prison Legal News. Retrieved from https://www.prisonlegalnews.org

Kincade, Brian. (2016, March 23). The economics of the American prison system. Smart Asset. Retrieved from https://smartasset.com

Mukherjee, Anita. (2016, August 10). Impacts of private prison contracting on inmate time served and recidivism. Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com

Wu, Gwendolyn. (2016, August 18). Activists to feds: closing private prisons won’t help most inmates. TakePart. Retrieved from http://www.takepart.com/

 

The 8 Things I Learned from Kobe

Kobe Bryant was one of the best basketball players the sport has ever seen, and there are a number of lessons we can learn from his Mamba Mentality. For Kobe, life was always bigger than basketball. Here are the lessons I’ve learned that every person should follow day in and day out.

But first to set the stage, let’s take a look back at my favorite Kobe game of all time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyjrgG9MSto

  1. Confidence

The first thing that always stood out to me when I was watching Kobe was his confidence in himself. He always wanted the ball in his hands, and he always wanted to be the one shooting the most important shots. He once famously said, “I would rather go 0-30 before I go 0-9.”  If you’re not confident in yourself, then who can be? Be willing to take chances and believe in yourself.

  1. Work Ethic

You can’t start a conversation about Kobe without talking about his relentless work ethic. This man would spend hours and hours in the gym. Early in the morning when everyone else was sleeping, he was working on his craft. Talent will only get you so far. Hard work and dedication can lead you down the path of success.

  1. Enjoy the Process

Remember a strong foundation is never built in a day. It takes time, but it also takes a person who is passionate about what they do. Kobe genuinely loved the grind because he always thought there was room to improve. The day to day grind can take a toll on some people, but the ones who embrace the process usually reach their goals.

 

  1. Be Detail Oriented

As Bryant started aging, he knew that he couldn’t rely on his athleticism as much like when he was younger. So, he started focusing more on his footwork and the X’s and O’s. Never underestimate what the small details can do for you. They can begin to add up quick. It can be the difference between being a great player and a legend.

 

  1. Set high standards

Don’t be afraid to set high standards for yourself. This sets the path, so you know where you want to go and what it will take. Kobe knew what his expectations were for himself and this helped him block out all the noise. The opinion of others shouldn’t impact you when your standards are already high. Keep your head down and keep working!

  1. Mamba Mindset

Kobe always wanted to go out there and be the best. His thought process was if someone else could do it, so could he. The special part about Bryant’s mindset was how obsessive he would become about a certain thing. He tended to model his game after the greats that came before him. Modeling yourself after someone that you idealize can be a great idea. You may learn a new habit or skill that takes your “game” to the next level.

 

  1. Family

As Kobe grew older, he became known more as being a family man. It was so heartbreaking to hear that Bryant passed away with his daughter during the accident. He described her as being a daddy’s girl. They shared the bond of loving basketball and were even seen at an NBA game sitting courtside a week before the accident. Never take family for granted. They are the people that love you the most and will always be there for you through it all.

  1. You Can’t Play Sports Forever, Find Something You Love

For Kobe, this was writing children’s books and making a short film that won an Oscar. Even though Kobe was done with his basketball career, he still had so much planned, and that was why his death was so sad. Find something that you love to do outside your job. Having a hobby you enjoy can keep some fun in your life and help avoid burnouts.

Help Montana’s Foster Kids!

Have you ever thought about how to help kids in foster care? An incredible way to lend your time is to become a CASA volunteer!

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are the voice of children in foster care. Appearing in court on a child’s behalf and advocating for their best interest is such a rewarding thing! Advocating for a child is just the tip of the iceberg: building relationships with the child, their natural family, and their foster family are also pieces of the puzzle.

In Montana, foster care rates skyrocketed 130% from 2009-2015. Montana was ranked second in the nation with a rate of 16.8 children per 1,000 in foster care in October 2017, according to Child Trends.

With this many kids in the system, wouldn’t it be so rewarding to be part of the solution?

There are CASA programs all across the state of Montana, and CASA is a nationally-based nonprofit. To find your local CASA program’s contact information, please see the National CASA Website at https://nationalcasagal.org/our-work/programs/.

The information on the photo is for Eastern Montana CASA/GAL, Inc., which is bases in Miles City, Montana. Our program serves children in 15 counties.

First, a Daily Dose of Doggies

Some days feel like this:
Or this:

So take a moment to cheer up with these

and remember this:

____        ____        ____         ____

Whoever chose the performers at the 2020 halftime and decided what they did on stage was brilliant. Because the watchers who are silent–silent about what the show imitates of the horror being forced upon children and families in America–silent about the lack of human rights–silent about the memo that having a voice that is powerful enough together to create change–are being heard. People are showing the silent people that their lack of certain values is most definitely not welcome. Anger is–and should continue–being thrown at the silent because they outcry about exposed skin instead of about the inhumane treatment of people in America.

You can say that shouting on social media doesn’t make much of an impact. But it can be the start of an impact. Fan the flame of this shouted conversation that has been taking place since the beginning of injustice–the halftime show did. (Leo DiCaprio did it for the conversation on climate change when he won an Oscar. Emma Watson does it for gender equality). Many other people use their fame or events to fuel conversation and create change. Many more not famous people create a platform and change daily.

Anyone can see at a glance online whose values align (or don’t) with theirs. This creates a supportive network. Fueling the fire every now and then keeps this communication in place. And who knows what can be done with this network–what actions can spark, then–ignite.

Written by S. Ward for NPAD 460: Marketing and Social Media, Spring 2020