Tailgating with her sons at Memory Mall is one of the few fun weekend activities Kim Holmes gets to do in her free time.

Kim Holmes represents parental working students at UCF who have to sacrifice their personal life to maintain good academics and family time.

Holmes is a 36-year-old UCF undergraduate student with two young kids. Being a single working mother of two boys, she faces a lot of challenges on her college journey.

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Holmes is one of the 4.8 million parents who are raising dependent children while in college.

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Three years ago, Holmes moved from England to the United States as a parental student to continue studying sports and exercise science at UCF.

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Having 20 hours of work per week due to the student visa, makes Holmes powerless to make a perfect schedule that would work with her other duties.

“Being an international student here is very difficult as a single parent. It wasn’t the easiest option but everything is worth it in the long run,” Holmes said.

Holmes works at the on-campus Recreation and Wellness Center as a personal trainer and a group exercise instructor. She also coaches people online through a website that focuses on health and fitness.

Holmes’ day begins at five in the morning. She starts working early while her parents take her kids to school. Holmes goes to the class, works at the gym, picks her sons from school, does the homework with them, and makes dinner.

“Not being able to have time for myself is one of the hardest things my life consists of. That’s good, I like it that way but sometimes my adult self-care gets pushed away,” Holmes said. “Sometimes I really miss taking long showers.”

Alexis Villacres, a 27-year-old criminal justice major, is also a mother pursuing her college degree at UCF. Villacres started college after she gave birth to her son three years ago. However, she had to drop out of the program and start again this semester.

Her day starts at nine when Villacres wakes up and goes straight to making breakfast and doing the house chores. Between the routine of working, taking care of her son and studying, Villacres has to sacrifice some parts of her life.

“The household chores can get in the way of schoolwork,” Villacres said. “Laundry doesn’t do itself.”

Villacres said she prefers taking online classes rather than on-campus lectures since it takes too much time from her day. She works at a restaurant on the other side of Orlando.

“Time-management is very important. Between school, work and family it is crucial to always plan,”  Villacres said.

Another parent having to juggle schoolwork, parenting and his job, is Storm Doddy, a 27-year-old graduate student with three young daughters. He doesn’t get to see his young kids as often as Holmes and Villacres.

Doddy sees his daughters at least one time a week balancing his work, school and studying time. He makes an effort to keep spending time with his kids individually as well as gathering all of them together as a group.

“My days are planned weeks if not months in advance, it is very hard to incorporate new things to my routine,” Doddy said. “I take advantage of every hour I have to be alive, to make sure that everything gets done.”

Doddy has a planner where he writes down all the shifts, exams, quizzes, and activities with his family. Planning out days and weeks helps Doddy to stay focused on the classes, as well as maintain good income and spend time with his kids.

“My time with my children is probably the brightest and the best time that I have at any given part of the month,” Doddy said. “Everything I do is for them. I want to build a better future for them.”

One of the available grants funded by the Department of Education for students with kids at UCF is: Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program. This program supports the participation of low-income parents in post-secondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Any enrolled UCF student with kids who is eligible for the CCAMPIS tuition, gets up to 50 percent off of their child’s tuition at the UCF Creative School, an on-campus-based child care service. This grant for parental students financially helps them with their child care fees and provides their kids with a spot at UCF Creative School, said Kimberly Nassoiy, the Creative School associate director.

No matter what the trials are, students like Holmes, Villacres and Doddy always remind themselves why they are pursuing a college degree at UCF, and how it will make their kids’ future better.

“To do it the way I have is a tough challenge,” Holmes said. “But it is a challenge that will help you grow and help you trust yourself and open up so many doors of opportunities.”