Single-Parent Students Make Every Minute Count
March 12, 2002 - Being a student at Sherman College is an extremely demanding job. The doctor of chiropractic program requires students to complete more than 4,600 hours (13 quarters) of classroom and laboratory study and also includes an internship in the college's Chiropractic Health Center. Not to mention the three years of prerequisite courses, including biology, chemistry and physics, required for admission to the college.
But being a single parent and a student requires a lot more -- it calls for some serious juggling skills.
"The real challenge is trying to balance school and family," says eleventh-quarter student Winn Sams, who has three daughters, Laurel Anne, 10; Hope, 7; and Katie, 5. "Children understand that you have a life outside of the family but they still want to come first, and they still deserve to come first. When one of my girls is sick or just needs 'mommy time,' it's challenging to rearrange our crowded schedule."
On a typical day, Sams rises around 5:15 a.m., gets dressed, makes lunches, eats breakfast and gets her daughters up and ready for school -- "not a smooth transition most mornings," she says. This year, she counts her blessings, since all three girls go to the same school. After a full day of classes, Sams works afternoons as an intern at the college's Chiropractic Health Center, sometimes until 6 p.m. Meanwhile, the girls' day care picks them up from school, and on Sams' late nights at the health center, a sitter takes the girls home.
"If we have time to cook, we fix dinner and eat together," Sams says. "If it's after six when I get home, we usually go out to eat -- but we always eat as a family because it gives us a chance to talk." After dinner and a little relaxation time, the girls start getting ready for bed. "If I can keep my eyes open, I try to study for at least an hour on weeknights," Sams says. Her study time definitely pays off; Sams was named to the President's List last quarter with a grade-point average of 4.0.
Sixth-quarter student April Knott and her seven-year old son, Austin, have a similar schedule. "We're in the car quite a bit -- probably about an hour and a half a day, driving back and forth to where we need to be -- even though we live really close to Sherman's campus," she says. Knott's classes end at 4:30, so she has time to take Austin to karate classes twice a week.
"We eat out a lot for dinner, which is a bad habit -- but it wipes out the time we would normally spend cooking and cleaning up and gives us more time to talk," she says. After eating and helping Austin with his homework (a new adjustment this year for the first-grader), Knott saves enough energy for her own studying. "The end of the day is rewarding," she says. "It means we're one step closer to the end of the madness."
Ninth-quarter student Carrie Mills is also familiar with the chaos of a single parent's day. She has six children, four of whom live at home (her oldest daughter and oldest son live nearby, also in South Carolina). Ashley, 5; R.J., 9; Peter, 14; and A.J., 17; demand Mills' attention as soon as she arrives home. "The minute I walk in the door, they all want to talk to me," she says. "I spend at least an hour listening to them talk about their day at school. Being a single parent in chiropractic college is the hardest thing I've ever done besides actually raising my kids." Mills is taking a lighter course load this quarter, so she takes advantage of the quiet time between classes. "I live too far away to drive home during breaks, so I use that time to study," she says.
Thirteenth-quarter student Elliott Armstrong began his chiropractic education at Sherman College just two weeks after his son, Jordan Days (now three), was born. Once he "got into the swing of things" at Sherman, Armstrong got a job so he could help provide financial support to his son and ex-girlfriend. Every two weeks or so, he made the five-hour trip to Greenville, NC, to visit them. "I would take homework and x-rays with me," he says. "I would hold the x-rays up to the window so I could study them." Little Jordan and his mom have since moved to Spartanburg.
Both Knott and Sams say they miss being able to participate in activities at their children's schools. "Austin goes to a private school that requires much more time and input from parents than public schools," she says. "It's really geared toward stay-at-home moms, so it's hard to find time to get involved."
"I really miss the parent volunteer stuff," Sams says. "But I keep reminding my daughters that this is temporary. Aside from my desire to serve humanity, one of the reasons I am here is because once I graduate, I can be my own boss. I will work for myself, have a respectable income, have a flexible schedule and keep my family as my number-one priority. I think it will be cool for my kids to be comfortable coming to my job and being a part of it. I want them to see the miracles of chiropractic and to see people living life to their potential. I know they will enjoy it when I start practicing because they love visiting me at the health center."
Sams also hopes her children are learning a valuable lesson through her example. "It's a real treat to know I'm supporting their growth as young women and showing them that they can do anything they put their minds to," she says. "I see a bigger picture. It's extraordinary what you can accomplish when you really challenge yourself. I don't know how, but the kids have really supported me while I'm doing this."
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