By Nicole Brems
Prior to the club Cradle of Success, founded in 2009, pregnant and parenting students on the SCCC Ammerman campus didn’t have somewhere to turn to for support while at school. Many young parents struggle to stay in school after having a child, having a place to turn to for support and encouragement can be a great thing to have to make it through college.
The group, which as founder and former President, Jean Bowen, puts it,
“Didn’t have an epic creation. I was sitting in American History class and started doodling in my notebook, sketching out cradles and baby stuff. I suddenly came up with an image and it fit my ideas of having a support group for young parents like me. I decided to make up the name Cradle of Success and play around with it on fliers. Since the student government government senators had to pick projects to work on to better the school, I chose to focus on the parent population of Suffolk. After many ideas, I kind of just ran with it.”
Having a concrete idea in mind about where she wanted the club to go, Bowen began her research about parenting students on campus.
“I used my project, “Cradle of Success” as a quality of life project, and came up with ideas to help the young parents on campus. I researched by emailing many SUNY schools to study the percentage of young parents and what facilities and/or clubs were available to them.”
The responses she received came as somewhat of a shock to her and fueled her to push forward,
“Some told me about daycares and programs, others saying that not many parents spoke up or looked for facilities to help them through college. I ended up bringing my information to the faculty advisor, Patty Munch, who told me my passion could be suited well by starting a club. In December 2009 on my last day of classes, I received the official letter stating Cradle of Success was an official SCCC club!”
Each semester on Activities Day Cradle of Success had a table where students could learn about the group. Though they were always successful on that day Bowen had wished more members could join. To try to help out parenting students further Bowen would send out letters and emails to companies looking for support and donations for the group.
“I spent hours looking up organizations onion and websites to help young parents. Although I catered to all ages and situations, my personal focus was on young parents like me. I wanted to make a Facebook, so I started that. I received so many replies from companies. I received samples and brochures from Earth’s Best, Pampers, Huggies, and many organizations about SIDS, pregnancy, nutrition, infant care, breastfeeding, colic, postpartum depression etc. It was so great. Those things are what drove people in because, who doesn’t want free stuff?” Bowen said.
As Bowen had previously mentioned Cradle of Success had been started not only to help parenting students on campus but, she was initially more drawn to those in similar situations to her own of having a child during her young adulthood. But, as her researched progressed further within the club she realized that these parents weren’t taking advantage of all the support systems the SCCC campus already had in place,
“I ended up realizing how many colleges didn’t support or help young parents. But, the cause was not because of discrimination. As I realized from my meetings, it was the parents who didn’t speak up. They kind of hid and most didn’t even use the daycare but, instead took night or weekend classes to make ends meet. I realized that the daycare was really made up of older parents who were married and had a family. I was, at the time, the youngest mother using the daycare, being only 17 when I enrolled my daughter.” she said.
Having her daughter in the campus daycare became a vital part of much of the changes Jean was able to make while at SCCC. During her years as a student she worked alongside the campus daycare director, Audrey Hopkins, who helped her with her research. Bowen was able to make club meetings from kid-friendly. While at a club meeting she was able to propose and bring into being, changing tables into the public bathrooms of the Babylon Student Center.
In the spring of 2011 Jean Bowen transferred to SUNY Stony Brook. After meeting through Amber Taylor through a mutual friend Amber, also a parenting student, became the next President of the club.
“When I first started classes I knew very few people but, through a family friend I met the previous president, Jean Bowen. Upon speaking to her I realized the club was a great asset to the school and it would’ve been a shame to see it go,” she said about deciding to join the club as the President.
Amber is hoping to follow in Bowen’s footsteps and get changing tables installed in the men’s bathroom in the Babylon Student Center. This year the group is also hoping to plan fundraisers to help the campus daycare.
The group, which currently has about 10-30 members, meets on Wednesdays during common hour in the Smithtown Science Building room 110. The group also has a Facebook page where anyone interested can get information about the group.