Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Giving pregnant students a better choice

New residential facility near North Carolina campus allows college-age moms to keep their babies and stay in school

(WNS)--Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, college students often feel like choosing to keep their babies will force them to drop out of school and condemn them to a lifetime of struggle. Few colleges, including Christian institutions, make it easy for single mothers to stay in class. But one small school in Charlotte, N.C., is partnering with a nearby pro-life organization to embrace its pregnant students, offering them support and encouraging them to continue their studies.

In June, Room at the Inn, a Catholic, non-profit organization, broke ground on a college-based maternity and residential facility - the first of its kind in the nation - on the outskirts of Belmont Abbey College. The new building will house pregnant women and young mothers, providing the resources and emotional assistance they need to continue their education while caring for their children.

“College women are the most abortion vulnerable population that we have,” Jeannie Wray, Room at the Inn’s executive director said. According to the report “An Overview of Abortion in the United States,” as many as 71 percent of women surveyed said they chose abortion because of the effect a child would have on their education or career.

In the process of formulating a long-term plan to equip single mothers to finish their education, Room at the Inn conducted a survey that revealed none of the colleges or universities in the greater Charlotte area offered housing or on-campus daycare for students with children. Room at the Inn’s new facility will provide both.

“We believe that a woman should not have to choose between her child and her education,” Assistant Director Debbie Capen said. “Women are well-equipped to have both, if they have the support they need.”

For years, Room at the Inn has provided counseling and material assistance through their pre-natal services and aftercare outreach program to young mothers in Charlotte. But the organization could only support four women at a time in its residential program. One of the girls, whom administrators declined to name to protect her privacy, came to Room at the Inn after losing her job and her housing when she found herself pregnant for a second time. Because she was caring for a toddler and an infant, she also dropped out of school. Room at the Inn set her up with an apartment, subsidized daycare and financial guidance. She soon found a full-time job and enrolled in school to earn her bachelor’s degree. The support equipped her to break a destructive cycle of poverty and become a self-sufficient single mother.

The new facility, built on land donated by the Benedictine Monastery at Belmont Abbey, will have space for as many as 15 women and their children. The $3 million project, funded by a community of individuals and foundations passionate about Room at the Inn’s mission, only needs $500,000 more to be completely funded. Construction should be complete by spring.
“We will provide everything that they need in regards to home and board, Wray said. “They will just have to provide for their schooling.” With a location so near Belmont Abbey College, the women will have a campus-based community environment. They can attend classes at Belmont Abbey or commute to another college in the area.

Wray hopes other schools and pro-life organizations will partner on similar projects all across the nation. Once Room at the Inn announced its plans for the new residential facility, several national pro-life figures called Wray to discuss the details.

Aside from the physical and emotional resources provided by Room at the Inn, leaders of the organization are passionate about imparting faith to their clients. They require the young women to attend weekly Bible studies and a church of their choice.

“A lot of the girls come from a faith-based background and are usually excited to rekindle their faith,” Capen said.

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