At PSU, it’s not just about babies

Ricardo Volkmann, a bachelor and college student, found his lifechanged forever when he became a single father overnight. Becauseof escalating violence in the Middle East Volkmann’s son, whousually visited every summer, was sent from Israel to live with himpermanently.

“My world completely changed,” forty-year-old Volkmannsaid. Suddenly he was trying to juggle school and work with thedemands of fatherhood.

His eleven-year-old son spoke English fluently but haddifficulty understanding when it was spoken to him. He neededtutors. He was diagnosed with ADD. Volkmann found himself sleepingno more than four hours each night. Depression set in. He saw hisGPA drop a full point, creating more stress.

“It was hell.”

Volkmann’s biggest concern was that he had no time to chaseafter services at PSU that exist, but are potentially lessavailable because of his unique circumstances.

“There are all these programs for women, but nothing formen,” he said.

PSU’s Student Parent Services office sees over 1,000 familieseach year. The majority of these families, however, have toddlersand infants, so most of the services are tailored to them.

Resources for student parents atPSU:

Student Parent Services, Emergency Loan Program forStudent Parents.
Smith 124, 503-725-5655 or

ASPSU Children’s Center. Smith 126, 503-725-2273.

October 29 Children’s clothing exchange, bake sale at ASPSUChildren’s Center open house.

Drop-in Support Group, Smith 124, third Thursday every monthbetween 1-3p.m.

Lola Lawson, Student Parents Services coordinator, says thatmost parents of older children come in to speak to her about theirchildren’s academics, issues with ADHD and various problembehaviors. She has nothing but praise for the student parents shemeets.

“I am always amazed by what they’re able to do. They comein with tremendous strengths,” said Lawson.

The Student Parents Services office keeps lists of referralsavailable, but finding time to get help is often impossible forVolkmann.

He also worries that because he is so busy, in his absence hisson will become involved with drugs or other troubles.

Leslie Costandi, a returning student with three older children,agrees.

“It’s easy for kids to slip through the cracks if you’renot there,” she says. Her youngest son also has ADD, and sheworries about being unable to maintain the good communication sheneeds to have with his teachers.

In addition to a full course load, Costandi is single and worksfull time. She decided to return to school this year for a careerchange. She studied anthropology at PSU twenty-four years ago, andnow hopes to get a master in communications.

Despite the challenges, both parents seem proud of theirdecision to return to school. They feel they are setting goodexamples for their children. Volkmann, a self-declared lifetimelearner, has been to school on and off for nearly 20 years.

“The greatest gift of the whole experience,” Volkmannsays, “is that he sees his dad struggling but accomplishinghis goals and obtaining his education.”

“My son thinks I’m a major dork with this brand new backpack,” Constandi says, laughing.