Human Interest

Campus group says facing an unplanned pregnancy shouldn’t mean college is over

Auburn University

Young women who get pregnant while they are students are often led to believe that in order to succeed or continue their education, they must abort their preborn children. But one non-profit organization at Auburn University in Alabama is working hard to counter that lie by providing much-needed help and support to these students.

According to its website, the organization called Baby Steps “empowers pregnant and parenting students facing an unplanned pregnancy at Auburn University to have their education and their baby by providing housing, support, and community.”

Kaitlyn Willing, the director of operations at Baby Steps, spoke with the Opelika-Auburn News about the organization.

“A lot of [student parents] drop out because they don’t have the resources to stay in school, and so that’s what we provide,” Willing said. “If they are wanting to finish their degree, an unplanned pregnancy shouldn’t have to stop that. To truly empower a female in today’s world means giving her the option to stay in school and raise the baby and have a little bit of extra help so she can do that.”

The impetus for starting Baby Steps stemmed from experience. Willing said that when she herself faced an unplanned pregnancy as a student, she found little support from anyone. “When I told my professor, they actually sent me to the office of disabilities, and I got laughed out of the office of disabilities, because they didn’t know what to do with me,” she said. “There was not really a protocol or something in place to help students who had found out that they had an unplanned pregnancy.”

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Willing said that since her organization opened its doors in 2017, they’ve served about 70 student parents. One woman interviewed, Ashley, described how she was struggling with juggling a long commute, working, and taking classes, while caring for her young son. Baby Steps was able to arrange closer housing for her while providing volunteers to watch her child during her night classes. “They took out a lot of the things that weighed on me, so that way I could be me again,” Ashley said.

In addition to housing and babysitting, Baby Steps also provides tangible items like clothes, bottles, diapers, wipes, and supplies, along with training in parenting skills and educational support. Willing also arranges a support group for moms to get together once a week and just talk. Baby Steps also offers support to fathers on campus.

Baby Steps is currently fundraising to start chapters on other university campuses, starting with the University of Central Florida. Willing’s dream is to train others in such a way that it will be easy for them to easily set up these chapters everywhere. “It’s our goal to be able to make it a simplified process to where we can deliver in a cookie cutter box: ‘This is exactly how you run Baby Steps on your campus,’” she said.

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