Single parents gathered in the Shepherd Union Building on Saturday for the first “Survive and Thrive” Conference put on by the Women’s Center. The conference went from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and was aimed at providing support and resources for single parents. All members of the community were invited to register and attend.

Carol Merrill, director of the Women’s Center, was the keynote speaker. Breakout sessions followed, providing insight on various topics. The conference also brought in different agencies from the community to demonstrate what resources are available for single parents and their children, such as Catholic Community Services and the Department of Workforce Services.

“The Women’s Center provides a lot of services to women, and single moms seem to have a great need for a lot of different things,” said Dorothy Hill, a women’s advocate for the Women’s Center. “In general, what we see with single moms is a lot of stress; they’re carrying a lot and trying to do a lot. And in the past we’ve done a weekly single mom group, but this year we decided to — instead of doing the weekly group — to try to do a kind of half-day conference.”

Merrill said some single parents might have difficulties attending weekly support groups, and having a conference allowed the Women’s Center a broader reach.

“Rather than having a six- or an eight-week support group, if we did the same information and had the same resources available to students and do it all in one day, that might be more beneficial,” Merrill said. “We were trying to find a way to create a program that could impact the lives of women and take less time for them to attend.”

Breakout sessions consisted of presentations on topics such as parenting tips for Internet safety, youth gangs and drug-use trends, stress reduction and cultivating well-being, balancing a limited budget, and strategies for returning to or starting school.

“It’s really helpful,” said Cynthia Galindo, a single mother who attended, on the conference, “especially to single women that are dealing with their kids — everything you really kind of need to cope with as being a single parent.”

Galindo cited some relevant issues involved in parenting alone that were addressed at the conference.

“Disciplining the right way, leveling your stress management — that’s always the biggest issue,” she said. “Everything, you stress on everything — teaching your child to do right, to grow up right. Obviously, we as parents want better for our children than what we had, so it’s really helpful.”

The conference was open to all single parents in the community, not just WSU students or single mothers. Hill said two single fathers registered for the conference, but neither had showed up yet.

Though this was the first Survive and Thrive Conference, Merrill said it is absolutely something the Women’s Center would like to continue in the future because of the positive response and effect on single parents.

“We’ll do an assessment of the conference and find out what the needs are of the women who’ve attended, and then base our planning for next year on that information,” Merrill said.

When asked how the conference was going, Merrill said it was “absolutely fabulous.”

“The response from the students has been ‘thank you so much,'” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever had so many hugs in one day as I have from women I’ve just met today, coming and saying, ‘Thank you. You really inspired me.’ And I had the privilege to be the keynote speaker, and it was really touching to watch the response on the faces of the individuals in attendance. I think we’re making a difference.”

(Photo by Tyler Brown) WSU alumna Stacie Harris presents in a breakout session at the Survive and Thrive Conference for single parents.
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