Co-founder of George Brown Parent Association on the motivation behind the group
Being pregnant was not as joyful as she had hoped.
Shana Kealey, a community worker student, experienced a whirlwind of ups and downs searching for support for parents that proved to be her motivation to create the first parent association at George Brown College (GBC).
“When I first started school (in 2011) I was pregnant and my due date was going to be two days after the end of the semester,” said Kealey. “I was in a difficult situation because my partner had been incarcerated and was going to be deported.”
Aside from not knowing how long her partner would be jailed, and whether he could support the child, Kealey said she had been laid off from work and her employment insurance was running out.
Kealey “didn’t want to face having a child, my first child, alone on welfare with no plan.”
Deciding to go back to college while pregnant was already a challenge for Kealey, and when she found peer-support systems for parents at the college lacking, it was even more difficult. After meeting another student mother who shared the same feelings, together they founded the GBC Parent Association for other students who were also parents.
“Right before I left at the end of the semester (before going into labour) I was trying to look into George Brown services and the Student Association,” said Kealey. “Is there anything for mothers, pregnant women who are struggling and about to have a baby? Can I talk to anyone other than trying to make a counselling appointment? Because it’s so hard to get an appointment and I needed one then.”
She added that at the time she had only spoken to the diversity, equity and human rights services at GBC. It was then that she was directed to the Community Action Centre (CAC) where she first spoke to the women and trans representative, who was compassionate, not judgmental and let her know of the services offered by the Student Association.
Since then Kealey has gone back to diversity, equity and human rights services equipped with the knowledge that family status is protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code; she is now in conversation with them about raising awareness around family status.
“We currently don’t have any events related to family status but we do want to do some in the future and we do help students with issues related to family status,” said Heidi Mehta a human rights advisor and positive space co-ordinator at GBC.
Kealey said that other mothers at the college were immediately interested in the association, “from the beginning when I had the opportunity to tell people I had a club, people were always like ‘really? I had no idea,’ and ‘yeah I’ve really struggled.”
While tabling during the clubs fair she also received many responses from single fathers who were attending GBC full-time.
Focusing on the rights of parents at the college and their personal well-being, the GBC Parent Association has become a well-supported initiative by the Student Association, which also publishes The Dialog.
On Dec. 12, she hosted the GBC Parent Association’s first Santa Kiddie Craft Day for parents and children in the Kings Lounge, which included distribution of wellness packs and pictures with Santa for the kids.
“The kids and parents really enjoyed the B-boyin’ Elves performance and the kids’ dance circle,” said Kealey. “Families took part in some crafts, cookie decorating and photos with Santa, and the GBC Parent Association also gifted wellness packs to the parents in attendance.”
After all of her struggles Kealey continues to promote her initiative and be a support for all students who are also parents at George Brown.
If you know any of a student who has been an inspiration for others, share their story with us and get them featured in The Dialog. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org tweet us at @dialogGBC or call us at 416-415-5000 Ext. 2764