Human Interest

First mother set to graduate from college program supporting pregnant students

A young mother will accept her diploma from a Catholic university in North Dakota with her 18-month-old toddler by her side, thanks to a program meant to support pregnant and parenting students as they finish their college educations.

The University of Mary launched their St. Teresa of Calcutta Community for Mothers last year. The program provides room and board for pregnant students, as well as other assistance, like childcare. Katie Chihoski is going to be the first graduate from the program — along with her daughter Lucia, of course.

“Katie and Lucia are beloved on campus,” said Vice President for Student Development Reed Ruggles, the program’s overseer. Ruggles said how exciting it’s been to see the children on campus grow up. “Lucia, for example, was very little when she moved in with her mother, Katie,” he said. “To see her take her first steps, say her first words, and grow from carrier to highchair in our Crow’s Nest Restaurant on campus has been a gift to all of us.”

College campuses are, in general, not friendly to pregnant and parenting students, leading women to believe abortion is their only choice if they want to finish their education. But this program shows that what women need is better support — not abortion.

The program, now in its third semester, has been embraced by the entire campus community. “Faculty and staff who know Katie are so supportive of her,” Ruggles said. “From volunteering to babysit Lucia to holding Lucia during a meeting or Mass, we consider it a great joy to have Lucia and Katie on campus.”

Chihoski said she has a miniature cap and gown for Lucia to wear, and she hopes for her to walk across the stage with her.

“I would love to make that a tradition for future graduating mothers,” she said. “Coming to school, I expected to be seen as different, and somewhat outcast from the typical college life,” she explained. “I think it was difficult to get used to my tag-along when going to events on campus, but Lucia makes the world twice as much fun. Attending school with my daughter, Lucia, has been the most amazing thing to witness. Children bring out the joy in people and offer a fuller sense of purpose.”

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