Victoria Neilson, 36, is a single mom raising her 16-year-old son Thomas.
In addition to being as mom, Victoria also works full-time at Wal-Mart and is an online student at Jamestown Community College, taking 18 credits this semester, majoring in middle school and high school physical and health education.
“It’s a lot to take on. I wanted to better myself and give my son the life I never had. I’m managing it by having a big support team,” Neilson said.
Part of that team includes her mom.
But she’s also a part of a bigger team, JCC’s Single Parents Reaching Education to Employment, or SPREE Program, which takes a more holistic approach in helping single working parents get through college.
“Very, very helpful for me. I wouldn’t be this far at all without them,” Neilson said.
Wende Lescynski is an achievement coach with the program, which serves more than 300 single parents from across the region.
“They are juggling an overwhelming balance between work, school and family,” Lescynski said.
Lescynski says because the course work can be intense, she helps link students with a services like peer mentoring, study groups and financial planning.
“Any barriers that are really preventing them to really focus on their program is what the college wanted to establish for all single parent students,” Lescynski said.
Like Victoria, who zooms with Wende once a week to discuss her progress.
Neilson even Lescynski as a co-presenter at a Parent Leadership Conference in Albany last fall, sharing her message with other single parents as well.
“I had so much fun doing that. Talk to your professors, tell them, ‘hey I’m a single mom, hey ya know, I need help,’” Neilson said.
Neilson plans on graduating in May before heading to Pitt-Bradford to continue her education.