Elaina N. Frieson is very candid about what it’s like to balance being a parent and a student.
The Kennedy-King College student recently returned from Oregon with Kennedy-King President Katonja Webb-Walker and Chief Institutional Advancement Officer and Chief of Staff Veronica Herrero.
During the trip, Elaina and other parenting students from around the country spoke to a room of faculty and staff members from various colleges about the unique challenges of managing dual roles.
One challenge that Elaina recalls vividly is when she needed to take a test but didn’t have childcare and she wasn’t able to bring her child into the classroom. She had to return home and make plans with her professor to retake the exam. Experiences such as Elaina’s can be common for parenting students, but good things have come out of this experience. Now, as long as Elaina isn’t in class, her daughter is welcome on campus with her.
“I’m glad City Colleges understands it’s an issue for parents to enroll, to not drop out, and to not get depressed,” Elaina said. “They’re trying to do something about it.”
During the panel discussion in Oregon, Elaina shared how she juggles all her responsibilities, including scheduling her classes, around her daughter’s schedule. Her biggest advice to any parenting student is to use your resources.
“I utilize every single department at KKC,” she said. “That’s how I got to where I am now.”
The Wellness Center helped Elaina secure money for her transportation and provided fresh food to eat through its on-campus food pantry. She also spends plenty of time at the Advising Office, which she’s described as her “favorite place.”
“My advisor, Warren Edwards… that man has been a mentor, advisor, and someone who gives an ear when I need it,” she said.
Dean Allison Rose and Director Michael Johns helped Elaina put on student events when she was president of the Student Government Association (SGA). Now, they check on her, support her mentally, and hold her accountable for her education.
The Career and Transfer Centers have been huge lifelines, too. Dr. Ingrid Prioleau Byrd and Dr. Donna Williams stay on Elaina about her transfer goals, application deadlines, and internships. They also help strengthen her resume.
“The staff here is making sure I’m fully prepared when I leave City Colleges of Chicago,” she said.
For Elaina, being a student at Kennedy-King is a childhood dream come true. She grew up walking past the old Kennedy-King campus on her way to school.
“KKC was a beacon of hope for me,” she said. “I know that I’m going to be somebody, and I know that building will catapult me to do great things.”
An extremely involved student, Elaina is already doing great things on campus. She is currently studying business administration and economics and serves as the president of the Business and Entrepreneurship Club. She’s also the president and founder of MUSE Club, the former SGA president, vice president of the pep squad, a member of the international college honor society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and a part of several committees at Kennedy-King, including the parent-student committee.
Despite her various responsibilities, Elaina says she juggles everything because she has no other choice than to succeed.
"I think of myself as a goddess. I create my own world. I shape my own reality. I don’t have a choice. I don’t give myself any other options. It’s either do it or fail, and I don’t like to fail."