By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is launching a new program that provides additional support for student-parents.
Offered through UNK’s Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, Project ACCESS ensures students have access to high-quality, affordable child care, along with educational services and other resources that make it easier to pursue a college degree.
“We don’t want anyone to feel like they’re limited because they are a parent or because they have other priorities. Higher education should always be available to anyone who wants to pursue it, regardless of their situation,” said Plambeck Center office associate Samantha Malone, who was a mother when she completed her degree.
Malone partnered with Plambeck Center interim Director Chelsea Bartling, UNK grant specialist Travis Reynolds and professor of teacher education Dawn Mollenkopf to develop Project ACCESS, which is supported by grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
Their goal is to offer services to students who need them the most while removing any barriers they may face.
“We know that some of our student-parents may have a little harder time finding the resources they need, so we wanted to reach out to those families and connect them with the services available on campus and in the Kearney community,” Bartling said. “We’re really excited to provide this opportunity for students.”
Through the program, the Plambeck Center will offer extended child care hours one night a week – from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. – giving students uninterrupted time to study or complete coursework. On-site tutoring and mentoring services will be available during those hours.
Drop-in and emergency child care services are available for participants, as well, and a swap-and-share program gives them access to donated clothes, toys, books and other items. There will also be quarterly meetings where students can learn about best parenting practices and other campus and community resources.
“There are so many different opportunities throughout UNK and the community that a lot of people don’t know about,” Bartling said. “This gives us an opportunity to share that information with families, especially those student-parents who are working, attending classes and trying to do what’s best for their children. The more we can help them, the better that child’s life will be.”
Project ACCESS is open to UNK students who are Pell Grant-eligible, with the cost determined by a sliding fee scale based on an individual’s financial needs. Participants aren’t required to enroll their children at the Plambeck Center full time, although a discounted rate for UNK students is available.
The coordinating team plans to start the program after the spring semester begins Jan. 24.
Students interested in joining Project ACCESS need to fill out an application available at the Plambeck Center, located at 2121 College Ave. in the University Village development south of UNK’s main campus. The center is open 7 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applications will be accepted year-round.
“Our goal is to provide services for as many families as we can,” Bartling said.
The Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center provides developmentally appropriate education for children from infant to age 6, including those with special needs. It serves UNK students and employees, as well as the Kearney-area community.
For more information on Project ACCESS, call 308-865-1576 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.