As a single parent, studying at SUNY Fulton-Montgomery Community College full-time is a sacrifice for Amsterdam resident Jessica Bortell.
It leaves her fewer hours to work and to be with her 9-year-old son Dinari. However, it’s a sacrifice that she’s hoping will pay off, and in the meantime, she’s found help through the Family Empowerment Community College Pilot Program.
It aims to help single parents who are attending college by providing daycare services, laptop loans, emergency fund assistance, tutoring, workshops and career counseling, among other services. It’s a State University of New York program that was launched three years ago.
“FM is one of nine SUNY community colleges that are administering this grant so we’re really fortunate to have this particular program,” said Laura LaPorte, the associate dean of student recruitment and admissions.
It’s the final year of the pilot program, which is open to single parents living at or below 250% of the poverty level. There are currently 38 students enrolled, including Bortell.
Before attending FMCC, she worked 60-plus hours a week and had several jobs, including at health insurance companies, bars/restaurants and collections.
“I wasn’t spending any time with my son. I was missing out on a lot. So I decided I’m just going to have to sacrifice for a little bit and take a cut on income and get help from the school so I could try to get a better career so I could spend more time with him,” Bortell said.
In 2017, she started studying phlebotomy through FMCC’s Individual Studies program — a short-term program that allows students to earn certificates through hands-on training and related college coursework.
“I did hands-on training right at St. Mary’s Healthcare and they offered me a job before I even completed it,” Bortell said.
After that, she worked part-time at the hospital and decided to go into the health studies program. She is currently working toward her associate’s degree in radiologic technology. At the same time, she’s working at Liberty ARC, which builds on her patient care experience and provides flexible hours.
However, it remains a challenge to manage everything on her plate.
“It’s definitely been a struggle. I go to school full-time, I work part-time and then I’m a single mom, so I have the household on top of that to take care of. So I can’t work as much as I used to before I started school so financially I’m struggling,” Bortell said.
Through the Family Empowerment program, she and the other students enrolled receive gift cards for everything from groceries to gas.
“It’s not uncommon for people to run up against some hard times and we do have a process that we can help out with some emergency …….