Jennifer Volatile has been juggling the responsibilities of being a parent and an online learner. As she got back into learning, Volatile longed for a sense of support and belonging.
“When I started back, my challenges were different than other students’ because I didn’t know how to separate myself from being a mom, wife, and having a job, to taking time for myself to pursue my passions — to pursue my dreams,” Volatile said.
This feeling, along with conversations with fellow parents and adult learners, led to the creation of the World Campus Students with Children Club. It is one of the newest clubs and organizations for online learners at Penn State World Campus.
Helping create a space for parents going back to school
Volatile, who is completing her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, said feeling alone on a journey like returning to school is difficult.
“I think humans in general just want to be someplace where they belong,” she said.
The group hopes to serve as a community and resource for parents who are navigating their education and caring for their families.
“It supports and celebrates the decision of parents going back to school,” Volatile explained.
Interested students can log in with their Penn State IDs and find more information on the organization’s website. The group hosts online meetings and is starting a signature event, “Tiny Campfire Chats.” The chats will include speakers who appeal to both parents and their children. Volatile said it is important to include opportunities for students’ family members.
“They’re seeing how important this is to their parents and they are learning and watching,” she said. “You get to expose your child to your education.”
Julie Fitzgerald, co-curricular program coordinator for Penn State World Campus Student Affairs, said it is exciting to see the development of another student organization.
“We are thrilled to see the growth and success of the Students with Children organization. We know that involvement in a club or organization is one of the many ways that World Campus students can make connections with other students, build their leadership skills, and expand their network,” Fitzgerald said.
Offering support and resources for parents
The decision to return to school is a brave journey for an individual and a time of change for their families, Volatile said. While the student is immersed in the new world of their academics, Volatile said, it can sometimes be a difficult transition for family members to understand.
“You’ll wonder if you’re making the right decision,” Volatile said.
The Students with Children Club is all-inclusive and welcomes parents with babies and toddlers to those with teenagers and young adult children. Volatile has a 20-year-old, while other club members have much younger children. They hope to provide programming and resources for students navigating any part of parenthood.
“We want to make sure that we are here to support and help,” she said.
Volatile said her goal of earning her degree is no longer just for her.
“I want my daughter to see me. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; we can still get there. Every dream is worth chasing and every journey is worthwhile and rewarding as long as you get something out of it, she said. “I wasn’t ready to be a student before, but maybe being a parent made me ready.”
Learn more about the student groups and activities available to Penn State World Campus students.