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From diapers to degrees: A&M-San Antonio’s family resources empower student-parents

From diapers to degrees: A&M-San Antonio’s family resources empower student-parents - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

8-year-old Jackie (left) and 6-year-old Aidan (right), children of two Jaguar students, play a game of pass the ball in one of the Young Jaguars classroom in Modular B on April 16, 2024. Photo by Saile Aranda

A typical day for Antoinette Ramirez follows the same routine: waking up, cooking breakfast, getting her and her 4-year-old daughter ready, going to school, trying to stay steady at the gym, and tackling assignments for her classes as a child development junior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

Child development junior Antoniette Ramirez and her 4-year-old daughter Avaleigh Vasquez. Photo courtesy of Antoniette Ramirez

Ramirez juggles the responsibilities of being a parent and a full-time student. 

“Finding the balance to juggle school, work, my child and my personal life can at times become overwhelming,” Ramirez said.

Just like Ramirez, many other college students are working through the same motions. Parents in college make up around 22% of all undergraduates nationwide, based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study from 2016. While most non-traditional students are enrolled in community colleges, nearly half of them attend both private and public universities combined. 

Those schools include A&M-San Antonio, where the significant population of nontraditional students includes parents. 

The university offers many resources to help alleviate the struggle to get a degree for students with families.

Young Jaguars is a resource for student-parents at A&M-San Antonio.


A new resource is the Young Jaguars program, an after school child care program that opened Jan. 16 on campus.

Student parents like Erika Gutierrez, computer science junior, are thrilled about the Young Jaguars program. 

“I know that as a parent we appreciate having the Young Jaguars program,” Gutierrez said at a student parent social on Jan. 26. 

Catherine O’Brien, director of Campus CARES Young Jaguars, said the child care center goes beyond being a babysitting service.

“We have a very interesting philosophy, so Young Jaguars is not just a place for you to drop your child off for you to go to class, though at its core that is truly the intention.”

A classroom located in Modular B that forms part of the Young Jaguars program which provides childcare for children of A&M-San Antonio students on April 9, 2024. Photo by Melanie Reyes

The program, located in Modular B, is centered on experiential learning, which allows the children to have a safe place to explore, learn and play.

“Truthfully, we really embody this idea of project-based-approach learning and being able to look at things through the lens of what our image of the child is,” O’Brien said.

The program allows children to research topics they are curious about, enjoy hands-on activities in the classroom as well as on the playground, and learn in many different ways.

Two master teachers, Analisa Leos-Garcia and Marissa Zavala, were hired to guide the children through these activities. They also allow some students  at A&M-San Antonio to have a way to gain experience in a classroom setting.

Young Jaguars is an all-inclusive program; they accept all children of student parents who meet the requirements to enroll in the program.

The program is open to student parents who are Pell grant eligible.

Though the program just opened doors, the idea for a child care resource on campus has been in the works since O’Brien joined the A&M-San Antonio faculty as an adjunct professor in 2017. 

“So many students have to bring their kids to class, especially with night classes,” said O’Brien. “We have a lot of students that are nontraditional and come to class after work all day, and so it was really an opportunity for us to say ‘well maybe we need to provide healthcare just so that they can go to class.’

The funding for Young Jaguars comes from a grant called the Child Care Access Means Parents in School or the C-CAMPIS grant for short. It pays for the entirety of the program.

This year, A&M-San Antonio was awarded $437,482 from the C-CAMPIS grant to continue developing the program.

Many student parents have approached O’Brien to share their feelings about the program. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a tour or just sat down to do paperwork, and moms and dads are just crying like ‘I wish this was here sooner,’” O’Brien said.

Student-parents are 10 times less likely to graduate.


Dr. Jamie Williams, director of learning innovation for Generation Hope, a national organization that specializes in helping student-parents, said that these university resources and support programs are crucial to promote student-parent success. 

Founded in 2010, Generation Hope has a mission to help student-parents obtain degrees through financial support and policy change.

Statistics say that 1 in 5 undergraduate students is a parent; however, the student-parent is 10 times less likely to graduate.

“Generation Hope works to ensure all student-parents have the opportunity to succeed, experience economic mobility and build wealth,” Williams said. “Generation Hope engages education and policy partners to drive systemic change and provides direct support to teen parents in college as well as their children through holistic, two-generation programming.”

Student-parents have more resources available to them on campus and nationwide.


As A&M-San Antonio is expected to grow in the upcoming years, Student Engagement has been promoting Young Jaguars on campus.

Gretchen Doenges, Student Engagement director at A&M-San Antonio, says the Student Engagement program supports the high transfer population of student parents. The program is currently waiting to fill a coordinator position to gather data on the population of student parents. 

“We want to include all of our student parents, as well as their children on campus in the programming that we do,” Doenges said. “So that they feel like A&M-San Antonio is home and it’s connected to not just them but the entire family.”

Student Engagement offers United Way’s Child Care Scholarship Program, which pays a portion of childcare costs. 

To qualify students need to be enrolled full-time, enrolled part-time with a part-time job, or enrolled in a job-training program. 

Although Student Engagement does not work directly with outside sources, the department does provide student parents with a list of off-campus resources, such as Education Center Service Region 20, Cap4Kids, Workforce Solutions Alamo: Child Care Services-Parenting, San Antonio Food Bank, and VIA Link.

Students can view the full list of resources on the Family Engagement website on A&M-San Antonio’s webpage.

Resources are increasingly available nationwide, too. Generation Hope has a scholar program in the D.C. area and New Orleans area that offers services to further a parents education.

The program offers tuition assistance, mentoring, training, mental health support and career readiness support.

Playground for children located next to Patriot’s Casa where kids can play as part of the Young Jaguars program. Photo by Melanie Reyes

“As we are seeing that program flourish, we are exploring scaling the reach of our Scholar Program to another region to launch in 2025,” Williams said. “As we continue to see a need across the nation for student parent support, we will continue to be very intentional about where and how we offer services.”

Back on this campus, Doenges said her office, which opened November 2019, aims “to promote their program so that our student parents do know about the services provided through our Young Jaguars,” Doenges said.

The A&M-San Antonio library has a family room for student-parents to bring kids.


A&M-San Antonio also offers a place where parents can study while entertaining their little ones.

Sarah Timm, head of Public Services at the University Library, says the new library includes a family room on the first floor. 

I think, you know, we’re just trying to show our students that we want to offer a space where they can come even if they have a child,” Timm said. “You’re not always gonna have child care and we understand that and we still want you to succeed at school, and if that means that you need to bring your child with you while you’re working on your classwork or studying, we can help you with that.”  

While the family study room could be used by any student on campus, it’s always reserved for student parents who need it.

“I think what makes this one special too is that, let’s say there is a group of students in the room right now, but none of them have children, and a student with a child comes in and the child may be kind of being rambunctious as kids are, we have the ability to go ask the people currently in the family study room to leave, and then we would give it to the person with the child,” Timm said.

The family room is designed to keep kids occupied, so their parents can focus on studying. 

“It’s the only room where we put specific things for children, like the toys, the puzzles, the crayons,” Timm said.

8-year-old Jackie (left) and 6-year-old Aidan (right), children of two A&M-San Antonio student-parents, play inside a Young Jaguar program classroom located in Module B on April 16, 2024. Photo by Saile Aranda

The room is equipped with a full-size table, eight study chairs, as well as a TV and white board. As for child-friendly amenities it provides building blocks, crayons, books and puzzles, with two bright yellow circular plush chairs in the corner. 

Since the new addition of the room, it hasn’t been used a whole lot for the purpose it was created for.

“I’m not out at the desk all day, but it doesn’t get used a whole lot for that purpose,” Timm said. “We still see them occasionally, but I don’t think that that room gets so much use that we need to have a second one at this point in time.” 

Tim Gritten, executive director, Library and Special Collections, says family study rooms are not too common in university libraries.

Gritten referred to a March 23, 2023, article in Inside Higher Ed, “Academic Success Tip: A (Study) Room of Their Own,” which highlighted a half dozen libraries that offered such a room, implying a certain rarity.

Another article in May 2022 in the Library Journal, “Academic Libraries Add Space For Student Parents,” indicated that most public libraries feature family-friendly spaces.

The family room is a space where children can enjoy a quiet area, play with stocked toys and experience hands-on technology.

“Academic libraries have been inspired to support students who are parents or caregivers by creating more inclusive spaces with child-friendly resources,” said Gritten, who noted that the library at A&M-San Antonio has included a family study room since before he joined the university in 2018.

Those kinds of resources can boost the success of students who juggle classes with parenting, according to Generation Hope, which has vowed to assist those students throughout the country.

“As we continue to see a need across the nation for student-parent support,” Williams said, “we will continue to be very intentional about where and how we offer services.”

Students looking for more information about enrolling a child into the Young Jaguars program can contact O’Brien at (210) 784-1529 or emailing

This story was updated at 5:30 p.m. to include contact information about enrolling children to the Young Jaguars program.

About the Authors

Samantha Denisse Medina Pow
Samantha Denisse Medina Pow is a junior majoring in communications with a minor in computer science at Texas A&M-San Antonio. She is a First-Year Writing Tutor at the Writing, Language, and Digital Composing Center at the university. In her spare time, she enjoys hobbies such as learning to sew, embroidery, and binge watching shows. Upon graduation, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in higher education leadership.
Dominique Villanueva
Dominique Villanueva is a communications senior at Texas A&M University-San Antonio minoring in Business Administration. In addition to being a full-time student, she also works with A&M-San Antonio. She loves to take spontaneous vacations with her husband and son. She has always had a passion for creativity and recently photography too. Upon graduating, she hopes to pursue a career in marketing or public relations in any type of business with a creative strategy.
Dorian Gonzalez
Dorian Gonzalez is a senior communications major with a minor in women’s and gender studies at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Dorian loves doing yoga and traveling in her free time. Upon graduating, she plans on pursuing a career in social media.
Daniel Carrillo III
Daniel Carrillo III is a junior majoring in communications at Texas A&M University- San Antonio. Besides being a full-time student, he works full-time at Bandera Bowling Center as an assistant manager. After graduation he hopes to work in journalism.

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