I Am a Mom, Intern and Student – the Pandemic Made Me a Teacher and Speech Language Pathologist Too

Yoslin Amaya Hernandez | April 21, 2020 | Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents

A follow up op-ed by Yoslin Amaya Hernandez was published on September 3, 2020 by The Aspen Institute.

As a full-time student and part-time employee, I have just one more thing on my plate to balance what most traditional students don’t have – kids. As a mom of two boys under five, you can imagine the hectic life I already lead on a day to day basis. Most people ask me when I sleep, but sleep hasn’t been in my vocabulary for the last five years.

As a student parent, I already face barriers on my path to postsecondary completion, and this pandemic has only made my journey more challenging. Many parents who are quarantined only have to balance work and homeschooling their children, but student parents now have to balance work, our own schoolwork, as well as our children’s, all while trying to find the resources to do so.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, I was interning three days a week at the Maryland General Assembly, taking five courses this semester so I can graduate within two years, and working part-time as a custodian five days a week. I was finally adapted to my routine and was beyond ecstatic to participate in my internship. The next thing I knew, everything changed.

I was taking two online courses and three on campus courses. We were on the eve of spring break when rumors began to swirl that we would soon move to “remote learning” – the two words I feared the most. I am not one who thrives in online courses. Nevertheless, a couple of days later, I received the email I was dreading; we were moving to remote learning until April 10th.

Then came the second wave: I had to begin working remotely for my internship, another thing I feared because I had never done telework. The third and biggest wave came soon after. My two sons also had to learn remotely, and I now needed to become a pre-K teacher and speech language pathologist too. As a Politics and Government major, neither of those two careers were in my neck of the woods.

My sons were home for about two weeks before any remote learning began because the state was hoping things would be under control by then and return to business as usual. That was not the case. School closures were announced on Thursday and learning was to begin on Monday. My husband and I had to prepare in four days for this new normal for our sons.

With only one laptop at home and with my husband now moving to remote learning as well, we needed an extra laptop to work with them. I was constantly checking my email for any updates from my older son’s school.

I was lost, confused, and scared because if I can’t feel confident in doing my own online classes, how am I going to teach my son? My fear is having my children fall behind the rest of their peers and as children from a family with low income and a teenage mother, the odds are already against them.

My younger son is in speech therapy because he is developmentally delayed in speech, which already puts him way behind academically. I now have to wait for his remote learning lesson plans and become a speech pathologist for him so we can continue bringing him up to speed with the rest of the children his age.

We were able to get a laptop from my older son’s school to work, but only because I am signed up to receive alerts from his school. I was the point of contact for many of the Latinx people in my community and my Delegate Office who were preparing a list of resources to send out to different organizations because too often parents were unaware of the resources being provided.

However, when we tried to login to the laptop, we weren’t provided a username or password. Trying to get a hold of IT services meant a two-hour wait time – time I didn’t have to spare because of my internship. When remote learning began, we had not been contacted by my child’s teacher on the lesson plans for the week nor had I been contacted by my younger child’s speech language pathologist.

The fear was creeping on my shoulder not only because my children’s teachers had not contacted us, but also because the number of COVID-19 cases in our county was quickly rising, and I was an essential employee after non-essential businesses were ordered closed in Maryland.

The possibility of bringing the virus home to my children looms over me like a cloud. With gloves being the only protective gear provided to me as a janitor and a positive case of COVID-19 in the building I work in, the fear is amplified even more.

I still work part-time at night as a janitor because I can and I need the income. But I have to find the time for my children and their learning, while continuing to work remotely for my internship and do my own homework during the day. Learning to balance things in a different way has been overwhelming to say the least.

Waking up at six in the morning to do shopping I used to regularly do at any time has now become a new normal. Not only because it’s when stores are stocked on groceries and the least amount of people are there, but also because my children are asleep then and won’t cry when I leave. They don’t understand why I can no longer take them to store with me and it hurts to see them cry.

The one semester I decided to add the extra class and an internship, I had to find a balance in homeschooling my children. Have I thought about dropping my fifth course? Yes. Trying to balance this extra class with all the work I have has proven to be a lot more stressful than I would have hoped. Will I do it? No, I won’t. I need to graduate now more than ever. Will I lose my sanity once all of this over? Very likely.

And yet, I consider myself one of the few lucky student parents. I am still employed, I have the resources, and I have the support to continue to provide more for my family, but many parents do not.

I came across many parents who weren’t aware of the resources being offered to fill the gap that remote learning would bring, and the food insecurity that many of them were experiencing because of how unprepared the school system was for something like this. The announcement of extended school closures was on a Wednesday, and laptop distribution began the next day.

People are crumbling after one missed paycheck and are struggling to find the resources due to lack of assistance from the school system. The resources exist, but they aren’t being publicized. After this pandemic is over, there has to be some self-reflection on how we can each contribute to better society – starting with our local schools.

My hope is that we learn to appreciate teachers more because we are now in their shoes. I hope we can learn that the minimum wage essential employees who carried us during this pandemic deserve a living wage. If none of us are able to live on $1,200 a month, neither can they.

I hope schools can learn from this pandemic and be better prepared to assist the students from families with low incomes in getting the resources they need in a timely manner, so they too can continue succeeding in their academics. I also hope we can learn to look after one another because when something like this happens, we are all in the thick of it.

Yoslin Amaya Hernandez is a Generation Hope Scholar and an Ascend Parent Advisor supporting the Aspen Postsecondary Success for Parents Initiative.

Related Posts

Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute announced that eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) have joined its Black and Native Family Futures Fund.
Press ReleasesDecember 13, 2022
Yolanda Johnson-Peterkin was taught to always take care of those around her, but didn’t always see education as a way of doing so After dropping out of school and later finding herself incarcerated and pregnant, Yolanda became determined to change the course of her life. Once she was released, Yolanda focused on establishing a relationship …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 5: Meet Yolanda Johnson-Peterkin Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsDecember 1, 2022
Drayton Jackson experienced homelessness for almost 20 years. Today, Drayton utilizes his lived experience to advocate for others in a similar position—but it wasn’t always easy adjusting to having a seat at the table. Drayton, now the father of eight, is setting boundaries and goals for himself to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Along with …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 4: Catching up with Drayton Jackson Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsDecember 1, 2022
1 in 5 Student Parent Podcast
Soren’s interest in higher education has always been rooted in an interest in the environment, even from childhood. As an adult, after struggling with their own mental health, Soren became interested in psychology, and pursued jobs in the medical field, but was soon discouraged by the for-profit medical system. Soren went through challenging transitions in …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 3: Meet Soren Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsDecember 1, 2022
Ignacio Angel has decided to define for himself what success looks like as a college student and father of four. The for-profit trade school he went to, which was later investigated for preying on vulnerable students, never delivered on promises of a job, and landed him in debt. With Lilly’s help, he found a support …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 2: Meet Ignacio Angel Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsDecember 1, 2022
Dr. Daria Willis brings her extensive education and her own experience as a student parent to her role as president of Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland. Daria had her daughter, Lyric, during her first year in college. She shares how keenly she felt the social stigma of being a single parent. It took a …

‘1 in 5’ Season 2 Episode 1: Meet Daria Willis Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsDecember 1, 2022
Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) released the second season of “1 in 5,” its highly rated podcast that explores the multifaceted lives of the one in five college students raising children.
Press ReleasesDecember 1, 2022
1 in 5 Student Parent Podcast
The 1 in 5 podcast vividly profiles students who are parents pursuing their education while raising a family and working. Today, more than one in five college students (22%) are parents. The experiences of students who are parents should not be unfamiliar or unheard, especially on college campuses. They’re in classrooms and clubs, working jobs and managing finances just like their peers.
BlogDecember 1, 2022
In an op-ed written for Early Learning Nation, 2023 Ascend Parent Advisor, Mikah Jorgensen, shares her personal experience and expertise offering 5 ideas and recommendations for postsecondary institutions to make higher education more supportive of parenting students.
Media MentionsOctober 6, 2022
Today, Ascend at the Aspen Institute (Ascend) announced that 11 new Parent Advisors have joined its Postsecondary Success for Parents initiative (PSP) to help shape Ascend’s expanded agenda to improve higher education policy and practice for student parents.
Press ReleasesSeptember 29, 2022
More than half of the nearly 4 million student parents in the U.S. are students of color, with Black, Native, and Latino students among the most likely to be raising children while in college. In fact, one-third of all Black college students in the U.S. are parents. When higher education is not designed with parents …

A Leadership Imperative: Postsecondary Success for Parents Launches Its Next Phase Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsSeptember 29, 2022
In an op-ed for Philanthropy News Digest, Ascend founder and executive director Anne Mosle highlights the power and potential in listening to and honoring the expertise of parents and caregivers.
Media MentionsAugust 22, 2022
In an article for Lumina Foundation's summer 2022 Focus magazine, Ascend's David Croom offers insight into the power of student parents' commitment to success for themselves and their families.
Media MentionsAugust 3, 2022
In an op-ed for amNY.com, Félix V. Matos Rodríguez shares insights and reflections on how higher ed can make a difference for families by supporting student parents.
Media MentionsJuly 29, 2022
RFP for HBCUs and TCUs to apply for funding and technical assistance to support student parent success on their campuses One in five college students – close to 4 million – is pursuing higher education while parenting. More than half are students of color, with Black and Native students more likely to be balancing school …

Ascend’s New Family Futures Fund Focuses on Black and Native Student Parent Success Read More »

Aspen Postsecondary Success for ParentsJuly 20, 2022