There are many students who are fortunate enough not to know what struggles are. These are the students who have a meal plan, transportation, extra money to spare and have never thought about or needed to subject their precious little souls to a part-time job.
So for one moment picture yourself Nekita Avery – full-time student, full-time employee, and full-time mother.
"Life is not simple and before I took time for granted; but when you have a child your life changes and it’s hard, not only physically hard but emotionally hard. I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep since I was pregnant," Avery said.
This Alabama native, who you’ve probably seen pushing a stroller across campus, is summarizing her life after her twenty-two and a halve hour long labor with her now, 17-month-old daughter, Kyla – otherwise known as the moment that changed her life.
Although she wouldn’t trade this bundle of joy for anything in the world she does admit her life has taken a 360-degree turn. Avery became pregnant at a time she classifies as "hard." Her mother who worked at the Post Office had recently gotten laid off, her Dad stopped driving for a living, and her sisters were busy "doing their own thing".
In addition, her mother and two sister decided to move to Atlanta because they felt the job opportunities were greater there, and Avery, whose first plan was to stay close to family, moved too. On June 2, 2003, Avery delivered her 7 lbs., 12 oz. and 15" baby in an Atlanta hospital.
Unfortunately because Avery was in labor for so long Kyla was born with a fever, but after three days in the hospital Avery and her daughter were able to go home. During those first couple of months money was tight and the process was moderately rough.
Her family never had the spare time and when they did they needed it for themselves, both her sisters worked a lot, while her mother was busy searching for employment. "Luckily in high school I was required to take a parenting class and a nutrition class.
I’m also glad I decided to take two additional parenting classes and help raise my niece, which is now seven," Avery said. Avery was not only lucky to have had some know-how on parenting, but also lucky that her baby’s father, Keith, helped her along the way and continues to support the mother of his child and his daughter.
In fact, Avery realized with her family being caught up in taking care of themselves, her best bet was to move back to Keith’s hometown, New Orleans, where she anticipated she would received more support.
With no immediate family, no transportation, a few baby items, and hope, Avery took the big step to move her and her daughter to New Orleans. During Kyla’s first year, Avery spent time with her daughter in the day, took some classes in her then Chemistry major, and worked at night.
The times when Avery was at work or in class, she had a Nanny, in which she researched, interviewed and got a background check on, to watch Kyla. Avery’s life continued like this for approximately a year, but in between attending classes and working, she often called Dillard in hopes that she and her daughter could live in campus housing so that Avery could attend school full-time.
After numerous of times hearing that Dillard did not offer those facilities, Avery was pleasantly surprised in July. It was in that month that Ms. Barnes in housing, phoned her with the news that Dillard had just started housing for those with kids. Currently, Avery and Kyla reside in Dillard’s newest apartments.
Avery chose to change her major to Nursing and instead of a Nanny, Kyla now attends daycare. In order to provide time for this new change, she has been forced to put her life on a different routine that she effortlessly described to me.
According to Avery, she gets up every morning at five; she picks out Kyla’s clothes, jumps in the shower, and then dresses herself. She then wakes up Kyla, washes her, puts her clothes on, and they’re out the house by 6:30. After that they usually get breakfast to go at McDonald’s, since Avery does not have a meal plan, and then they catch two buses to drop Kyla off at daycare.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Avery catches the bus back to school, does homework she didn’t finish the night before and then prepares for her four back-to-back classes, her first starting at 9 a.m.
After classes she work studies with Jump Start, picks up Kyla, feeds her, plays with her and has her to bed by 9 p.m. When Kyla is asleep, Avery has a chance to do her homework and is usually in bed around 11:30 p.m.
On Tuesday and Thursdays she still drops off Kyla at her daycare, but instead of classes she work-studies with Jump Start from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturdays Keith picks up Kyla, giving Avery a small break to do homework and housework, and Sundays Avery and Kyla go to church.
This cycle starts all over again on Monday. After hearing Avery describe her scheduled life so many questions came to my mind, most beginning with the word, how.
First, how she is able to manage financially?
"I have work-study, grants, loans and a scholarship for school. As far as clothes and pampers, her father buys her clothes, pampers, wipes and other necessities and he also gives me money for everyday things. And I receive free child care because Louisiana has a system, where they provide child care based on your income," Avery said.
Due to the fact that Avery and Keith have to account for Kyla’s home supplies and daycare supplies, she estimates an average of $300 a month is spent on her daughter’s basic necessities. In response to my question of how do you balance it all she said: understanding teachers, dropping an 8 a.m. class, Keith’s support, the support of friends, and by having a set routine.
As far as her relationships with friends, she is still able to spend time with them at their apartments but she doesn’t really go out. Lastly I asked what she missed the most since Kyla, and after a pause of approximately thirty seconds she replied, nothing. "I think my life is better now. At first I was always so busy and on the go that I don’t think I had time for anybody. But now my daughter and I we go out, we go to the movies, we go out to eat, we kick it," Avery grinned.
With the year Avery was out of school to provide for her daughter, and because she changed her major from Chemistry to Nursing she estimates that she still has another three years left at Dillard.
Although this news would frighten the average 2nd semester sophomore student, Avery is determined and motivated to graduate with a college degree. "I know you have to have a degree to get to where I want to go. My mom had four kids and she didn’t have a high school education and we struggled a lot. I want to make sure my child never has to struggle like we did," Avery said.