University resources help students who juggle school with parenting 

As a senior in high school, Trinity McDowell faced a challenge that could have gotten in the way of her education: she was pregnant. 

She wanted to be a nurse — she liked the idea of helping people. 

Fast forward to today and McDowell, is a freshman at Pitt State, has a 4.0 GPA, and is the mother of two busy toddlers. Her goal is to get accepted to the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing at Pitt State and she is determined to finish college. 

Helping her on that path are several resources provided to students who also are parents. 

  1. SparkWheel 

SparkWheel helps students who have potential barriers to finishing their degree, including those who are first generation, have been in foster care, moved here from a large city, are experiencing food or housing insecurity, have a lack of social and emotional support off campus, or are balancing parenting while in school. 

Megan Johnson

“Trinity is an awesome person and has accomplished so much,” said Megan Johnson, student support coordinator for SparkWheel. “I’m so proud of her!” 

The SparkWheel program has been a big help in her journey, said McDowell, whose parents did not attend college. 

“Megan checks in with me regularly, we meet in person about my goals, she visits with me about any challenges I may be having, and she helps connect me with any resources she can get her hands on,” she said. 

  1. Married housing 

McDowell attends classes during the day while her husband, David Seely, is home with their children. Then, he works at night while she cares for their children, gets homework done, and gets household chores finished. 

They live in Crimson Village, a duplex for married students. 

“I’m really glad the university has a housing option for students with children,” she said.  

  1. Parenting Gorillas Support Group 

McDowell said students who are parents can feel isolated. 

“It can get lonely, because it’s hard to bond with other people who don’t have kids,” she said. “Other students are focused on college life, activities, parties, and I’m focused on just trying to keep a balance. It’s hard to socialize.” 

She hopes to overcome that and to improve her parenting skills by belonging to the Parenting Gorillas Support Group. It is available to all students who are juggling classes with parenting and meets every Tuesday at 2 p.m. in the Overman Student Center. 

“Students are able to offer support to one another, learn new skills, and discover resources to be successful,” said Johnson, herself a mother and a first-generation college graduate.  

Student parent

  1. Tutoring

McDowell also is taking advantage of another service offered by the university to all students: tutoring. 

“I’m a bit worried about my Chemistry class,” she said. “It’s really challenging, and I didn’t have Chemistry in high school.” 

Tutoring is offered by upperclassmen and faculty in Biology, Chemistry, Communication, English, Geography & History, Mathematics, Modern Language & Literature, Music, Physics, Accounting, Computer Information Systems, Automotive & Engineering Technology, Technology & Workforce Learning, Exercise Science. 

  1. Advisors

    McDowell encourages all students — not just those with children — to keep in close contact with their advisors. 

“Mine is going to help guide me through the CNA process,” she said. 

Academic advisors are assigned to students by major and are available five days a week by appointment and keep in touch with their students by email. 

  1. Little Gorillas Preschool 

Next up: McDowell is going to learn more about Little Gorillas Preschool, housed in the Family and Consumer Sciences building on campus and in operation since 1964. It is licensed by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment to serve children ages 3 to 5 years old and has been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. It is open to children of students, faculty, and staff on campus, and also to children from the community. 


When McDowell graduates, her husband plans to return to college to finish his degree. 

Learn more 

Learn more about SparkWheel and other resources available to students who are parents. Connect with Johnson by email , drop by the Office of Inclusion & Belonging in the lower level of the Overman Student Center M-F, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or call 620-235-4927.