Grambling State University is one of eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) to join Ascend at the Aspen Institute’s Black and Native Family Futures Fund.
This new capacity-building fund provides financial support and expert technical assistance to selected HBCU and TCU campuses that are committed to improving the success of their student parents.
GSU and the other seven institutions will receive $75,000 and expert technical assistance to seed solutions for student parents on their campuses. Each institution’s work will be informed by the expertise of an enrolled student parent, who will play an advisory role in the project.
As part of the initiative, Grambling State will reopen its campus child development center, which closed in 2009 due to a lack of sufficient funding. Utilizing a strong two-generation (2Gen) approach, the university will provide early literacy and developmentally appropriate science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum to children enrolled in the center while also providing support services to their parents who are enrolled at the university.
GSU Interim Director of Family and Childhood Studies Terry Matthews said it’s still unclear as to when the university’s campus child development center will reopen.
“We do not have a timeline,” Matthews said. “We are in the process of writing another grant for the funding of the GSU Child Care Center.”
But it’s something GSU President Rick Gallot feels strongly about accomplishing as soon as possible.
“The GSU Nursery School, soon to be renamed the GSU Child Development Center, is one that is dear to my heart as I attended this school during my developmental years from pre-K to Kindergarten,” Gallot wrote in a letter to the Ascend at the Aspen Institute. “Studies have shown that literacy begins at the very early stages of childhood and as a father, I am personally committed to ensuring that we reopen this school soon. It is critically important to have childcare professionals who are knowledgeable of the factors that impact early literacy development. The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences is ready to partner with you in creating cutting-edge technologies, strategies, and best practices in early childhood development and early literacy using the 2Gen Model in support of our student-parents and the entire student body.”
Thay Holden, a non-traditional senior student majoring in Family and Consumer Sciences at GSU is also a wife, mother of five children, entrepreneur, and a former teacher who feels the Black and Native Family Futures Fund and reopening of the university’s campus child development center will be of great benefit.
“The need for a childcare center at GSU is so important for all students like me who need an affordable place to take their child(ren) that is also safe and nurturing,” Holden wrote in a letter supporting Grambling’s involvement in the program. “Going to class and finding childcare can be an ongoing challenge but knowing that your child is being taken care of while you’re in class can lessen the load.”
Ascend, with support from Lumina Foundation and Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies, created the Black and Native Family Futures Fund, targeted HBCUs and TCUs for the initiative because it feels that with institutional cultures that are rooted in family, community, and holistic support, those types of institutions are uniquely positioned to identify and address the needs of Black and Native American student parents.
“Supporting institutional change is a central focus of our expanded work to transform higher education with student-parent success in mind,” said David Croom, associate director of Postsecondary Success for Parents at Ascend. “HBCUs and TCUs have long done more with less in supporting their student parents and this Fund aims to infuse resources and support into their efforts. We are excited to learn alongside them.”
The seven other institutions joining in the partnership with Ascend for the launch of this fund are Blackfeet Community College pm Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana; Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland; Diné College (across the Navajo Nation; New Mexico and Arizona); Jarvis Christian University in Hawkins, Texas; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina; Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and Stone Child College (Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation; Box Elder, Montana).
“Student parents are at the center of any effort to achieve racial equity in higher education,” said Dr. Zainab Okolo, strategy officer at Lumina Foundation. “We are proud to work alongside Ascend and these eight innovative institutions, who are investing in the success of Black and Native student parents and in their institution’s future as well.”
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