Moms and Dads of UNA discuss challenges

Fadil Al-Hassan and Atikah Al-Hassan playing with their son Rawad. They were interviewed about balancing being a student and full-time parent.

Real-life heroes do not come in capes and tights like the movies portray. No, most heroes are hidden under mom jeans and tell dad jokes all day long.

Many undergraduate students put on their imaginary cape and tights every day to work toward earning a degree while raising children.

Senior basketball player Mekena Randle said she always knew she would return to college after she had her son, Bryce.

“I knew not going back wasn’t an option,” she said. “After I had the baby, I told my mom I had to get back to school. I had to provide for my son.”

Only 50 percent of teen moms receive a high school diploma by the age of 22, according to the CDC.

Senior Jhoana Patlan said she also knew she would eventually earn a degree.

“Even when I found out I was pregnant, I never stopped thinking about going to college,” she said. “I thought even if it wasn’t then, it would be later on. It was the fact that nowadays you need a college degree.”

A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found young adults with a bachelor’s degree earned a median of $46,900 while those with only a high school credential earned $30,000.

Although married international students Fadil and Atikah Al-Hassan said they find it hard separating homework and taking care of their son Rawad, weekends are always spent with family.

“The weekend is just for family,” Al-Hassan said. “(It’s hard to separate) time and schedule for what time you can study, what time you can sleep and what time you can have for family.”

Patlan is president of the Hispanic Culture Organization and also responsible for keeping up with class work and raising her young daughter, Leah.

“It’s doable, but it’s hard because I feel like there is so much that I’m missing out on,” she said. “There are some things with my school schedule and my work schedule that I wasn’t able to attend.”

For many students who double as parents, life can be impossible without the help of loved ones.

“My family has really been strong in helping me in everything — financially and supportively — anything I need, they’re here for me,” Randle said. “You need family, friends and people that say they care about you. Without them I know I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Patlan said she would also not be in college if it were not for her family and friends.

“I have my hands full,” she said. “I bring her to all of my events and meetings. My friends are a huge support system, too — they love her. If I need to do something they’ll watch her and I’ll do whatever I need to do.”

Often times having a child forces first time parents to grow up.

“He’s (Bryce) caused so much change,” she said. “Not only physically and spiritually but he’s changed a lot of my personality traits that I needed to get rid of. He helped me grow up. I’ve always struggled with patience, but the moment I had him my patience had to grow stronger.”

Although she is young, Randle said she does not regret having a child.

“Of course at first I was like ‘I can’t have a child’,” she said. “I was really scared. Then once I had him I couldn’t see myself not having him.”

Patlan said having a child made her mature much faster.

“At the same time it was a reality check because I was going down a bad path,” she said. “There is no more me anymore, it’s an us now. Everything that I do now is an us.”