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Access & Success program partners with Minnesota Department of Health

A play area welcomes children of student parents on the Minneapolis campus of St. Kate's.
A play area welcomes children of student parents on the Minneapolis campus of St. Kate's.
Photo by St. Catherine University.

Access and Success, a retention program for students with children at St. Kate’s, has been awarded a Young Student Parent Support Initiative Grant from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for $240,000 over two years.

The Access and Success program, which provides educational support for student parents, is the largest program serving student parents in the U.S. Nearly 900 student parents attend St. Kate’s and in 2011, the program served 62 percent of the student parent population on the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses.

The program model is centered on providing students with support through relationships, in addition to helping them find the resources they need. Four components of the student-centered program work together to provide support to student parents:

• Relationships or Creating Connections, such as regular lunches, office support and child-friendly study spaces,
• Resources, including a lactation room, laptop loans and emergency grants, or food and housing support in the broader community,
• Advocacy, such as advocating for an individual student and raising awareness in community publications and
• Leadership, such as the leadership programs Steps to Success and Mother to Mother, as well as student-parent awards.

The grant from the Minnesota Department of Health will address the needs of two vulnerable populations, providing support and education for both pregnant and parenting college-age students who may not see college as an option. It will foster the expansion of the Access and Success program over the two-year grant cycle. 

On Monday, April 23, during "Student Parent Week" at St. Kate's, staff and faculty recognized Access & Success staff for the achievement.

“Only 2 percent of women who start degrees as teen mothers complete a degree by the time they’re 30,” said Director Joan Demeules BA’87, MA’01. “It’s undergraduate day student-parents who are the most at risk for not being retained.”

Demeules said the retention and graduation rates of student-parents at St. Catherine University are the result of hard work by all of the staff in the Access and Success program. The relationship focus, she said, is what keeps students coming back.

“We noticed right away that the model was working,” said Demeules. Through relationship building and providing students opportunities for leadership, she said students not only have resources but they also have the connections they need to succeed. “Think of the change that makes in someone’s life.”

The Access and Success program will now serve as a model for programs at other institutions, as St. Catherine University has also been awarded a consulting contract from the MDH.  St. Kate’s will provide technical assistance, consultation and training to MDH and to other start-ups across the state seeking to retain student parents.

Corporate and Foundation Relations and the Office of Research and Sponsored Program assisted Demeules in securing the grant.

April 25, 2012 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Faculty, Leadership, Students