Last Thursday the Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus Student Services Conference Center was buzzing with information on how to care for infants while attending college. Several high school students from Van Buren, Booneville, Clarksville, Paris, Magazine and Lamar schools attended Arkansas Tech-Ozark’s “Baby Steps,” a program that encourages teen parents to graduate high school and pursue higher education.
Held Thursday, April 6 at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark Campus, the students in attendance learned about the importance of career education and professional success.
They learned that career education can bring employment stability, the opportunity for advancement, enhanced salary and other perks. They also learned that a higher education can give them the potential to earn more during their lifetime than if their education ends after high school.
The program featured guest speaker Jessica Birchler, director of the Arkansas Tech-Ozark Career Pathways Initiative, who shared her personal story of being a young parent and the difficulties it can bring as a college student. She recalled seeing her son happily clap as she received her diploma at graduation and how happy and accomplished she felt in that moment.
“Children whose parents go to college are twice as likely to attend,” she said. “It was difficult, but I made it through so he could have a better life.”
Ilda Barrientos, administrative specialist in admissions at Arkansas Tech-Ozark, spoke about having her son early in life as well.
“I would never have made it through without support,” she said. “We are always here for you if you have any questions or need help applying for resources or colleges.”
Chancellor Bruce Sikes also spoke to the high school students.
“Other than how important it is to finish high school, there are two things you need to take away from today: One, higher education generally increases quality of life. It can help you build a career and have financial security,” he said, “and two, financial aid, such as a Pell grant or the Academic Challenge Scholarship, is available to you. We are always here to help you throughout the process.”
Students also were given a tour of Arkansas Tech-Ozark, as well as helpful items, such as diapers, baby food and more donated by Gerber of Fort Smith, Rockline Industries of Booneville and Agent Susan Holman of Farm Bureau of Ozark.
After their tour, Lesley Krohn, Arkansas Tech-Ozark practical nursing instructor, demonstrated newborn care techniques and answered questions about how to care for infants.
“This annual program empowers young mothers to take a proactive role in their future,” Birchler added. “Seeing all the wonderful opportunities on this campus, and through education in general, opens doors for these young women and their families.”