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Harvard Assists Student Mothers

UNDERGRADUATE MOMS SECOND IN A TWO-PART SERIES

By Georgia N. Alexakis and Lori I. Diamond, CRIMSON STAFF WRITERSs

The idea of becoming a single mother frightened Anna N. Payanzo '00 enough, but the news also came at the worst time.

Payanzo had just decided to begin the Harvard career she had postponed two years earlier, but she felt certain that the University would be less than thrilled when she showed up in September five months pregnant.

"I'd thought I'd have to sue the school because they would throw me out or else make my life really difficult," she says.

Prospects seemed just as dim for Gina M. Ocon '98-'00, who found out she was pregnant while already enrolled at Harvard. Balancing life as an undergraduate and a mother seemed so impossible that Ocon says she felt she would have to give up the Harvard degree she had always dreamed of or have an abortion.

"I was told that girls get pregnant here everyday and that 99 percent of them get abortions," Ocon says. "It shocked me. It didn't click until almost a year, when Bailey had already been born and I was planning my return to Harvard, as to what that meant. There are so many financial and psychological disincentives to being a parent here."

But while motherhood at Harvard may be a rare phenomenon, Ocon and Payanzo soon learned that they had more than just two options. With the help of the administration, the Financial Aid Office, the Housing Office and support services across campus, both women realized that raising a child and earning a degree weren't incompatible.

Financial Burdens

While balancing classes and their children is a challenging enough task for undergraduate mothers like Ocon and Payanzo, both women also find themselves in a juggling act when it comes to finding the financial and emotional resources they need in order to succeed.

Ocon finds herself bogged down by bills on a monthly basis.

Rent at Peabody Terrace is $905 every month, and the monthly bill from the Bigelow Cooperative Day Care Center comes to $1,169, half of which is covered by Tommasso Maggiore--the father of her daughter, Bailey M. Maggiore--under a court order.

Maggiore also pays $214 every month in child support. But when Ocon estimates her monthly grocery bill to be almost $150, that monthly check from California covers only a small portion of her expenses.

Ocon must also take into account the $150 pager bill she receives every month; she was required to buy a pager when she enrolled Bailey in day care. And numerous cross-country phone calls to her family in Lakewood, Calif., add to Ocon's costs as well. Ocon estimates that her phone bill every month comes to $150.

There is also the added expense of the $50 Ocon pays in utilities every month, as well as thousands of dollars in annual health insurance costs.

But as staggering as these costs may be for a single mother who qualified for full financial aid as an undergraduate even before she had a daughter, Ocon has found that through the help of Harvard and other local resources, she has been able to manage.

"Harvard comes up with a lump sum comprising scholarships, loans and grants," Ocon says. "I get whatever money is left over [from educational expenses] to apply to my living expenses."

"The truth of the matter is that Harvard has helped me out in more ways than I could have ever imagined," Ocon says. But she adds: "I just don't want people to think that my life is all fun and games and someone is picking up the bills. I'm not just living off of Harvard's resources."

Ocon also turns to Cambridge-area organizations to make up the difference.

"Cambridge is a great place to be poor," Ocon says.

The local chapter of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) gives Ocon coupons that she can trade in at area grocery stores for bread, milk, cereal and cheese. And St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church charges Ocon $1 in return for a bag of groceries.

Still, Ocon's lifestyle has so many demands that she never hesitates to ask for any extra resources.

When Ocon needed a baby-sitter to take care of Bailey some weekend afternoons so that she can get some studying done, she advertised for one in the lobby of Peabody Terrace. Within weeks, Ocon found a family in her apartment complex who volunteered to care for Bailey Saturday afternoons, when Ocon needs the time to study or work on papers.

"I'm very vocal about being a single mom. I have no problem telling people that this is what I'm all about," Ocon says. "You have to get really thick-skinned. You have to ask for help. It's about my daughter's well-being. I'm getting to the point right now where I almost feel as if I'm talking about it too much."

But Ocon and her family are both quick to point out that balancing life as a mother and as a Harvard undergraduate is inherently difficult, no matter how much assistance Ocon receives from Harvard or elsewhere.

"Gina has pretty much no time to just do 'college kid' things like go out at night or even just hang out talking with friends," writes S. Sara Ocon, Ocon's younger sister, in an e-mail from Duke University, where she is a junior.

"She is financially burdened and can't afford to pay baby-sitters often. In fact, she doesn't even own a television," the younger Ocon writes. "It's very hard to do much more than study and raise Bailey because of both time and money constraints. However, I'm pretty sure she expected this."

Still, Ocon says that Harvard surpassed even the most optimistic of her expectations when the senior tutor of Eliot House, Margaret Bruzelius '74, and Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70, director of admissions, wrote declarations of support that were used during Ocon's custody battle with Maggiore. In May, Ocon won the right to bring Bailey to Massachusetts after a legal attempt by Maggiore to keep the pair in California.

"I always knew what I was doing was right, but I always felt like I was on the defensive--trying to prove to people that I really could handle Harvard and a child," Ocon says. "It was nice to get some support."

Payanzo says she is also satisfied with Harvard's support. Although Conrad T. Yazzie, her boyfriend and the father of her child, works full time and provides for most of the family's financial needs, Payanzo says Harvard has done its best to make sure she's not expected to pay more than she can.

"They've been really good in terms of finances," she says. "They were just so much more accommodating than I expected."

When Payanzo decided to move off- campus, she says she thought Harvard would not support her. But she says she was pleasantly surprised when her financial aid was adjusted to help her pay for her one-bedroom apartment on Irving Street, a monthly expense of $900.

And like Ocon, Payanzo says that Harvard has also been very generous when factoring into her aid package the cost of health insurance, which annually totals $1,500.

Although Payanzo says she is grateful for the financial help she is receiving from Harvard, she also thinks that she should not be treated differently than students with other types of financial burdens.

"Why should students who have kids get more than those who don't?" she says.

Equitable Aid

James S. Miller, director of financial aid, says he agrees with Payanzo.

The Financial Aid Office (FAO) assesses the circumstances of each student individually. All extenuating circumstances, including dependent children, are weighed in the same manner.

The FAO simply looks at a student's total expenses and the total resources available to them. It then attempts to meet the difference with a combination of grants, loans and a Federal Work Study Program job.

"The more complex the issues involved in an individual case the longer it may take for us to resolve them," Miller says, "but I do believe very strongly that ultimately students get the financial help they need along with the reassurance and advice they need."

Miller says that funding housing and day care are the most pressing financial concerns facing undergraduate mothers. In addition, the stress of juggling parenthood and work compels undergraduate parents to take extra time to complete requirements.

According to Miller, the FAO calculates its aid to students for living expenses based on the annual standard room and board fee; this year that sum was $7,278. Students who choose to live off campus, such as Ocon and Payanzo, must pay for any additional room and board expenses through loans, jobs and family resources.

Associate Dean of the College for housing Thomas A. Dingman '67 says that undergraduate parents are not allowed to live in the houses with their children.

"Most of our single rooms are made for one person," Dingman says. "We would have to charge them more for rent if we gave them a double room and that would get rather pricey."

Dingman says that Harvard Planning and Real Estate has been very helpful in accommodating undergraduates with special circumstances, like Ocon and Payanzo. But while many might assume that the day-care center, laundry rooms and proximity to campus make Peabody Terrace the most coveted housing for young parents, Dingman says that the apartment complex where Ocon and Bailey live can be financially taxing.

"The farther you get away from Harvard Square, the cheaper the rents are," Dingman says. "But the Financial Aid Office knows that somebody living in West Medford or Somerville is not ideal. They have taken that into account when determining the financial aid package."

When Payanzo was looking for an apartment, she ran into the problem Dingman describes. She found a two-bed- room apartment in Union Square in Somerville that cost only $650 a month but chose to live in a smaller apartment that was closer to the Yard.

Once housing issues have been considered, the FAO must also consider the cost of day care. While Payanzo currently avoids these costs with the help of her live-in mother and boyfriend, Ocon had a tougher decision to make.

Ocon says that the Harvard day-care system was too expensive and that schedules were not flexible enough to meet her needs. Ocon also wanted the chance to be more involved in Bailey's early education. Enrolling Bailey in the Bigelow Cooperative Day Care Center gave Ocon the opportunity to help out in the classroom on a volunteer basis.

Payanzo says that she looked into day care last semester and discovered some of the same problems that Ocon ran into.

"There are opportunities for graduate students and opportunities for Faculty," Payanzo says. "We're still part of the community. I've realized how much there could be structures that could make things easier."

According to Merry D. Touborg, director of communications for the Office of Human Resources, additional resources are available to Ocon and Payanzo. The Office of Work and Family, a branch of the Office of Human Resources, offers day care and a day-care referral service.

Although these services are largely targeted to Faculty and staff, students can use those that are not related to standard employee benefits, Touborg says.

Another complication that the FAO must factor in is the possibility that student mothers--taking fewer courses per term than their classmates--may remain at Harvard for more than eight terms. Miller says students who need more time to complete requirements must petition the Administrative Board. If they continue to demonstrate financial need, they may be awarded additional aid.

Although the College says it does as much as it can to provide for the needs of its students, the FAO does expect students to help themselves through loans and jobs. Family contributions are also factored in.

Both Ocon and Payanzo are work- study students, although the FAO substituted a Radcliffe grant for Payanzo's work- study job last semester, after she had just given birth.

"The College has clear limits on what it can do financially," Miller says.

But where the financial resources of Miller run short, Radcliffe Assistant Dean of Students Joanne L. Allen-Willoughby steps in. After being contacted a month ago by other members of the administration and by Ocon herself, Allen-Willoughby became interested in guaranteeing that current and future student mothers have access to all the resources available through the University.

"We are trying to be very creative to help Gina so we can make sure that she gets all of the funding that we can provide for her," Allen-Willoughby says, citing Ocon's commitment to improving resources available to other young parents. "She's a young woman at Radcliffe who is very interested in advancing women through their Harvard-Radcliffe careers no matter what their circumstances might be."

Allen-Willoughby says that Harvard has a responsibility to meet more than just the financial needs of mothers enrolled at the College.

"We are also trying to be of personal help for [Ocon] as well," Allen-Willoughby says. "I'm looking for resources for her throughout the community. What I'm finding, though, is that most other institutions, including other universities, do not have resources in place for student mothers."

Community Resources

But financial support is not the only thing that undergraduate mothers need in order to succeed at Harvard.

Like any other undergraduate, both Ocon and Payanzo seek the type of emotional support that comes from belonging to a community of students whose lifestyle reflects their own.

Dudley House fills that gap, providing Ocon with access to a community of off- campus students that includes several graduate students who are also parents.

Originally affiliated with Eliot House, Ocon switched her house affiliation to Dudley earlier this semester. Payanzo has chosen to remain affiliated with Currier House.

"In undergraduate Dudley, we try to do a little outreach," says Margaret Handy, who has worked as the assistant to the Dudley House senior tutor for the last 25 years. "We encourage them to be part of the house. This is part of our role as a house that deals with a primarily off-campus population."

Dingman says he agrees with Handy, adding that the residential houses are not well-equipped to deal with this unique segment of the student population.

"It's an option that works," Dingman says. "It's not the only option, but I think it can be helpful in that you and everyone else is a nonresident. There's less of a feeling of estrangement."

Dudley House sponsors dinners, brunches and movie night for its affiliates, making it a point to invite the families of the affiliates as well.

"Someone like Gina [Ocon] is different from married students who have each other to turn to because she is alone," Handy says. "Being part of the house is more important to her than to married couples who might choose to be alienated from the Dudley community."

Dingman adds that Dudley's graduate student population gives Ocon a greater chance to meet people who have a similar situation to hers.

"We go out of our way to introduce parents to one another so they can benefit from each other's shared experiences," Dingman says. "Their children are always welcome in our building."

But besides the feeling of community that Dudley House offers, mothers like Payanzo also seek counseling and guidance at University Health Services (UHS).

Payanzo's initial encounter with UHS gave her mixed messages.

When she found out that she was too far along to have an abortion, she says, she got the impression from UHS that since she no longer needed help in making her abortion decision, UHS would be of no use to her.

"Initially I think that's what the message is--an abortion is the only really good decision to make," she says. "At least at this school."

But when Payanzo talked to Nadja B. Gould, a licensed clinical social worker at UHS, Gould reassured her that UHS offered many other services relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Payanzo ended up developing a close relationship with one of the counselors there.

In contrast to Payanzo's first impression, UHS has no general policy for dealing with pregnant women, says Dr. Randolph Catlin, chief of mental health services at UHS.

"We don't encourage one way or the other," he says. "You can't generalize on anything that has to do with an individual. It would depend on the individual's resources, inclination and the issues involved."

Mothers Who Went Before Them

As unusual as Ocon's and Payanzo's cases may be, neither woman is the first kind of her kind to graduate from Harvard.

Handy says that she remembers dealing with at least one undergraduate parent every year for as long as she has been here.

But Handy is quick to point out that for the most part, these students were each part of a married couple in which at least one parent attended Harvard.

"Some have been older, but others are young and married while raising a family," Handy says. "Sometimes they return to school when they are older, when their own children--those born when their parents were Harvard undergraduates-- are college-age."

Handy says that it was not unusual in the '70s for students to get married when they were undergraduates. In fact, there were so many married undergraduates that there was a married students' group advised by their own dean.

"We didn't think of it as being all that unusual married students with children," Handy says.

But Handy is quick to point out that single parenting--a newer phenomenon at the College--is different because the mothers are generally without much of a support system.

"Gina's not the only single parent we've ever had, and she's not particularly younger than others," Handy says.

According to Handy, the exact number of married or single students with children either previously or currently enrolled at the College is almost impossible to determine conclusively. Harvard never surveyed students about their marital status or family arrangement because the number of married or single undergraduates was never especially high, Handy says.

But Thomas E. Crooks '49, who served as Dudley House master from 1963 to 1972, says that he never bothered to count the number of children who visited him on a daily basis in his office. He says that meeting an undergraduate with a child or a family was not an unusual part of his job.

"I do remember children being born. I even remember going to the hospital to visit some of the mothers," Crooks says.

Dingman agrees with Handy and Crooks, explaining that such information has never been part of the College's database of student information.

"In the last couple of years at Dudley House we've had about a half-dozen mothers that I can remember," Dingman says, adding that most of the mothers he can recall have had very different home lives than either Ocon or Payanzo.

"Most of them have been older women with grown children who returned to Harvard years after leaving," Dingman says.

One such woman is Suzanne Girlando '68-'96. Girlando left Harvard to get married and only returned to complete her degree after having three children.

Girlando, who commuted a total of 100 miles from and to her family's home in Fitchburg, Mass., each day, says that Harvard was very accommodating in providing for her transportation costs.

"One day my car died on the highway and I was without transportation," she says. "They provided me with a small grant to cover transportation that really helped me get my car back on the road."

A visual and environmental studies concentrator who spent half her weekends processing film for class and the other half caring for her son, Girlando was given a work-study job to help pay for college.

Since she and her husband lived with her parents, she had no arrangements with Harvard housing and was not on the meal plan. She usually brought a lunch to school.

Comparing Colleges

Other universities that report an equally small segment of undergraduate mothers in their student populations appear to provide even fewer resources than Harvard offers.

Columbia University, for example, refers undergraduates with children to area hospitals and agencies for child care, living accommodations and financial assistance. Mothers at Columbia, according to the school's Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Gemma Y. Campbell, may find themselves looking into local branches of WIC for food donations.

Mothers at Cornell University face a similar predicament. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, which recently examined the university's resources for pregnant women and young mothers, Cornell offers minimal resources. The student health center on campus has no obstetricians on staff, and the university provides no day-care services for students or university employees.

Most of the school's resources are geared toward pregnancy prevention. But, Cornell does offer counseling for students who have just found out they are pregnant and refers them to local obstetricians to ensure they receive proper prenatal care.

But even some schools with large student populations, like Boston University, have no housing, obstetrical or counseling services specifically for undergraduate parents.

"There are very few undergraduate parents, if any," says Colin D. Riley, associate in public relations at Boston University, adding that there are no official records kept of this statistic.

If a case of an undergraduate parent did arise, though, the dependent child would be factored into the undergraduate's financial aid package, Riley says.

But if the student were able to provide for more than 50 percent of her or his child's care, the student would be considered an independent and thus would qualify for more aid.

K. Sue Wood, senior associate of student awards at Stanford University, said in a June interview that an undergraduate mother at the university would most likely live on-campus in one of the available apartments. She said she did not know if a financial aid package would cover off-campus housing, but said that the child of an undergraduate would receive health insurance and that the university would pay a maximum of $3,750 per year toward child-care expenses.

But raising a child while attending college is not as rare as it seems. Of the 20,000 students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, more than 800 have young children in their care, says Joanne R. Levinson, director of Amherst's Commuter Services and Housing Resource Center. Most student parents at Amherst live off-campus.

UMass-Amherst has many resources devoted to undergraduates with families. The school hosts dinners, brunches and information sessions and offers free child care, transportation and meals for participating parents and children. About half the participants in each program are undergraduates, says Levinson, who helped organize these efforts several years ago.

Parents at UMass-Amherst also have many financial services available to them.

In addition to factoring family size into financial aid packages, UMass-Amherst provides additional tuition assistance for child care for undergraduates. Funding for this program is provided by a $2 fee paid by all students. According to Levinson, even more money may be set aside for child care by next fall.

"We'd be glad to help create similar programs in other schools," Levinson says, recognizing that the large amount of support Amherst offers to undergraduate parents is "highly unusual."

But while Amherst may be more than willing to offer its services, Dingman says that undergraduate mothers will most likely always feel as if they have to knock on several doors before finding the help they need.

"It's likely to be always that way. When you have such a small population, that's bound to happen," Dingman says. "We want very much to be supportive, but there's no such thing as one-stop shopping when you're a single parent at Harvard."

A Worthy Struggle

No matter how hard it may be at times to get the support and the resources they need, neither Ocon nor Payanzo says they regret their decisions to have a child and to come to Harvard. Both women are adamant that other undergraduates who find themselves in the same situation they were in should not feel as if an abortion or leaving Harvard are the only options.

"I know a lot of girls who have been pregnant but don't think it's possible to do anything but have an abortion," Payanzo says. "I don't know why so many women quit school."

Ocon agrees.

"The fact of the matter is that people get pregnant, and we need to find a way to help them," Ocon says. "I have never once regretted my decision to have Bailey, but that's not to say that the process of raising her while at Harvard has been easy."

FRIDAY: Both Gina M. Ocon '98-'00 and Anna N. Payanzo '00 manage to be both full-time mothers and students. Part one tracks their lives at Harvard and traces their paths to college.

TODAY: What resources does the College provide undergraduate mothers? Part two explores the aid Harvard offers undergraduate mothers and compares it with that of other colleges.PLAY TIME: ANNA PAYANZO (right) lives off campus with her mother and boyfriend, who help her to care for her son, DYLAN

Rent at Peabody Terrace is $905 every month, and the monthly bill from the Bigelow Cooperative Day Care Center comes to $1,169, half of which is covered by Tommasso Maggiore--the father of her daughter, Bailey M. Maggiore--under a court order.

Maggiore also pays $214 every month in child support. But when Ocon estimates her monthly grocery bill to be almost $150, that monthly check from California covers only a small portion of her expenses.

Ocon must also take into account the $150 pager bill she receives every month; she was required to buy a pager when she enrolled Bailey in day care. And numerous cross-country phone calls to her family in Lakewood, Calif., add to Ocon's costs as well. Ocon estimates that her phone bill every month comes to $150.

There is also the added expense of the $50 Ocon pays in utilities every month, as well as thousands of dollars in annual health insurance costs.

But as staggering as these costs may be for a single mother who qualified for full financial aid as an undergraduate even before she had a daughter, Ocon has found that through the help of Harvard and other local resources, she has been able to manage.

"Harvard comes up with a lump sum comprising scholarships, loans and grants," Ocon says. "I get whatever money is left over [from educational expenses] to apply to my living expenses."

"The truth of the matter is that Harvard has helped me out in more ways than I could have ever imagined," Ocon says. But she adds: "I just don't want people to think that my life is all fun and games and someone is picking up the bills. I'm not just living off of Harvard's resources."

Ocon also turns to Cambridge-area organizations to make up the difference.

"Cambridge is a great place to be poor," Ocon says.

The local chapter of Women, Infants and Children (WIC) gives Ocon coupons that she can trade in at area grocery stores for bread, milk, cereal and cheese. And St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church charges Ocon $1 in return for a bag of groceries.

Still, Ocon's lifestyle has so many demands that she never hesitates to ask for any extra resources.

When Ocon needed a baby-sitter to take care of Bailey some weekend afternoons so that she can get some studying done, she advertised for one in the lobby of Peabody Terrace. Within weeks, Ocon found a family in her apartment complex who volunteered to care for Bailey Saturday afternoons, when Ocon needs the time to study or work on papers.

"I'm very vocal about being a single mom. I have no problem telling people that this is what I'm all about," Ocon says. "You have to get really thick-skinned. You have to ask for help. It's about my daughter's well-being. I'm getting to the point right now where I almost feel as if I'm talking about it too much."

But Ocon and her family are both quick to point out that balancing life as a mother and as a Harvard undergraduate is inherently difficult, no matter how much assistance Ocon receives from Harvard or elsewhere.

"Gina has pretty much no time to just do 'college kid' things like go out at night or even just hang out talking with friends," writes S. Sara Ocon, Ocon's younger sister, in an e-mail from Duke University, where she is a junior.

"She is financially burdened and can't afford to pay baby-sitters often. In fact, she doesn't even own a television," the younger Ocon writes. "It's very hard to do much more than study and raise Bailey because of both time and money constraints. However, I'm pretty sure she expected this."

Still, Ocon says that Harvard surpassed even the most optimistic of her expectations when the senior tutor of Eliot House, Margaret Bruzelius '74, and Marlyn McGrath Lewis '70, director of admissions, wrote declarations of support that were used during Ocon's custody battle with Maggiore. In May, Ocon won the right to bring Bailey to Massachusetts after a legal attempt by Maggiore to keep the pair in California.

"I always knew what I was doing was right, but I always felt like I was on the defensive--trying to prove to people that I really could handle Harvard and a child," Ocon says. "It was nice to get some support."

Payanzo says she is also satisfied with Harvard's support. Although Conrad T. Yazzie, her boyfriend and the father of her child, works full time and provides for most of the family's financial needs, Payanzo says Harvard has done its best to make sure she's not expected to pay more than she can.

"They've been really good in terms of finances," she says. "They were just so much more accommodating than I expected."

When Payanzo decided to move off- campus, she says she thought Harvard would not support her. But she says she was pleasantly surprised when her financial aid was adjusted to help her pay for her one-bedroom apartment on Irving Street, a monthly expense of $900.

And like Ocon, Payanzo says that Harvard has also been very generous when factoring into her aid package the cost of health insurance, which annually totals $1,500.

Although Payanzo says she is grateful for the financial help she is receiving from Harvard, she also thinks that she should not be treated differently than students with other types of financial burdens.

"Why should students who have kids get more than those who don't?" she says.

Equitable Aid

James S. Miller, director of financial aid, says he agrees with Payanzo.

The Financial Aid Office (FAO) assesses the circumstances of each student individually. All extenuating circumstances, including dependent children, are weighed in the same manner.

The FAO simply looks at a student's total expenses and the total resources available to them. It then attempts to meet the difference with a combination of grants, loans and a Federal Work Study Program job.

"The more complex the issues involved in an individual case the longer it may take for us to resolve them," Miller says, "but I do believe very strongly that ultimately students get the financial help they need along with the reassurance and advice they need."

Miller says that funding housing and day care are the most pressing financial concerns facing undergraduate mothers. In addition, the stress of juggling parenthood and work compels undergraduate parents to take extra time to complete requirements.

According to Miller, the FAO calculates its aid to students for living expenses based on the annual standard room and board fee; this year that sum was $7,278. Students who choose to live off campus, such as Ocon and Payanzo, must pay for any additional room and board expenses through loans, jobs and family resources.

Associate Dean of the College for housing Thomas A. Dingman '67 says that undergraduate parents are not allowed to live in the houses with their children.

"Most of our single rooms are made for one person," Dingman says. "We would have to charge them more for rent if we gave them a double room and that would get rather pricey."

Dingman says that Harvard Planning and Real Estate has been very helpful in accommodating undergraduates with special circumstances, like Ocon and Payanzo. But while many might assume that the day-care center, laundry rooms and proximity to campus make Peabody Terrace the most coveted housing for young parents, Dingman says that the apartment complex where Ocon and Bailey live can be financially taxing.

"The farther you get away from Harvard Square, the cheaper the rents are," Dingman says. "But the Financial Aid Office knows that somebody living in West Medford or Somerville is not ideal. They have taken that into account when determining the financial aid package."

When Payanzo was looking for an apartment, she ran into the problem Dingman describes. She found a two-bed- room apartment in Union Square in Somerville that cost only $650 a month but chose to live in a smaller apartment that was closer to the Yard.

Once housing issues have been considered, the FAO must also consider the cost of day care. While Payanzo currently avoids these costs with the help of her live-in mother and boyfriend, Ocon had a tougher decision to make.

Ocon says that the Harvard day-care system was too expensive and that schedules were not flexible enough to meet her needs. Ocon also wanted the chance to be more involved in Bailey's early education. Enrolling Bailey in the Bigelow Cooperative Day Care Center gave Ocon the opportunity to help out in the classroom on a volunteer basis.

Payanzo says that she looked into day care last semester and discovered some of the same problems that Ocon ran into.

"There are opportunities for graduate students and opportunities for Faculty," Payanzo says. "We're still part of the community. I've realized how much there could be structures that could make things easier."

According to Merry D. Touborg, director of communications for the Office of Human Resources, additional resources are available to Ocon and Payanzo. The Office of Work and Family, a branch of the Office of Human Resources, offers day care and a day-care referral service.

Although these services are largely targeted to Faculty and staff, students can use those that are not related to standard employee benefits, Touborg says.

Another complication that the FAO must factor in is the possibility that student mothers--taking fewer courses per term than their classmates--may remain at Harvard for more than eight terms. Miller says students who need more time to complete requirements must petition the Administrative Board. If they continue to demonstrate financial need, they may be awarded additional aid.

Although the College says it does as much as it can to provide for the needs of its students, the FAO does expect students to help themselves through loans and jobs. Family contributions are also factored in.

Both Ocon and Payanzo are work- study students, although the FAO substituted a Radcliffe grant for Payanzo's work- study job last semester, after she had just given birth.

"The College has clear limits on what it can do financially," Miller says.

But where the financial resources of Miller run short, Radcliffe Assistant Dean of Students Joanne L. Allen-Willoughby steps in. After being contacted a month ago by other members of the administration and by Ocon herself, Allen-Willoughby became interested in guaranteeing that current and future student mothers have access to all the resources available through the University.

"We are trying to be very creative to help Gina so we can make sure that she gets all of the funding that we can provide for her," Allen-Willoughby says, citing Ocon's commitment to improving resources available to other young parents. "She's a young woman at Radcliffe who is very interested in advancing women through their Harvard-Radcliffe careers no matter what their circumstances might be."

Allen-Willoughby says that Harvard has a responsibility to meet more than just the financial needs of mothers enrolled at the College.

"We are also trying to be of personal help for [Ocon] as well," Allen-Willoughby says. "I'm looking for resources for her throughout the community. What I'm finding, though, is that most other institutions, including other universities, do not have resources in place for student mothers."

Community Resources

But financial support is not the only thing that undergraduate mothers need in order to succeed at Harvard.

Like any other undergraduate, both Ocon and Payanzo seek the type of emotional support that comes from belonging to a community of students whose lifestyle reflects their own.

Dudley House fills that gap, providing Ocon with access to a community of off- campus students that includes several graduate students who are also parents.

Originally affiliated with Eliot House, Ocon switched her house affiliation to Dudley earlier this semester. Payanzo has chosen to remain affiliated with Currier House.

"In undergraduate Dudley, we try to do a little outreach," says Margaret Handy, who has worked as the assistant to the Dudley House senior tutor for the last 25 years. "We encourage them to be part of the house. This is part of our role as a house that deals with a primarily off-campus population."

Dingman says he agrees with Handy, adding that the residential houses are not well-equipped to deal with this unique segment of the student population.

"It's an option that works," Dingman says. "It's not the only option, but I think it can be helpful in that you and everyone else is a nonresident. There's less of a feeling of estrangement."

Dudley House sponsors dinners, brunches and movie night for its affiliates, making it a point to invite the families of the affiliates as well.

"Someone like Gina [Ocon] is different from married students who have each other to turn to because she is alone," Handy says. "Being part of the house is more important to her than to married couples who might choose to be alienated from the Dudley community."

Dingman adds that Dudley's graduate student population gives Ocon a greater chance to meet people who have a similar situation to hers.

"We go out of our way to introduce parents to one another so they can benefit from each other's shared experiences," Dingman says. "Their children are always welcome in our building."

But besides the feeling of community that Dudley House offers, mothers like Payanzo also seek counseling and guidance at University Health Services (UHS).

Payanzo's initial encounter with UHS gave her mixed messages.

When she found out that she was too far along to have an abortion, she says, she got the impression from UHS that since she no longer needed help in making her abortion decision, UHS would be of no use to her.

"Initially I think that's what the message is--an abortion is the only really good decision to make," she says. "At least at this school."

But when Payanzo talked to Nadja B. Gould, a licensed clinical social worker at UHS, Gould reassured her that UHS offered many other services relating to pregnancy and childbirth. Payanzo ended up developing a close relationship with one of the counselors there.

In contrast to Payanzo's first impression, UHS has no general policy for dealing with pregnant women, says Dr. Randolph Catlin, chief of mental health services at UHS.

"We don't encourage one way or the other," he says. "You can't generalize on anything that has to do with an individual. It would depend on the individual's resources, inclination and the issues involved."

Mothers Who Went Before Them

As unusual as Ocon's and Payanzo's cases may be, neither woman is the first kind of her kind to graduate from Harvard.

Handy says that she remembers dealing with at least one undergraduate parent every year for as long as she has been here.

But Handy is quick to point out that for the most part, these students were each part of a married couple in which at least one parent attended Harvard.

"Some have been older, but others are young and married while raising a family," Handy says. "Sometimes they return to school when they are older, when their own children--those born when their parents were Harvard undergraduates-- are college-age."

Handy says that it was not unusual in the '70s for students to get married when they were undergraduates. In fact, there were so many married undergraduates that there was a married students' group advised by their own dean.

"We didn't think of it as being all that unusual married students with children," Handy says.

But Handy is quick to point out that single parenting--a newer phenomenon at the College--is different because the mothers are generally without much of a support system.

"Gina's not the only single parent we've ever had, and she's not particularly younger than others," Handy says.

According to Handy, the exact number of married or single students with children either previously or currently enrolled at the College is almost impossible to determine conclusively. Harvard never surveyed students about their marital status or family arrangement because the number of married or single undergraduates was never especially high, Handy says.

But Thomas E. Crooks '49, who served as Dudley House master from 1963 to 1972, says that he never bothered to count the number of children who visited him on a daily basis in his office. He says that meeting an undergraduate with a child or a family was not an unusual part of his job.

"I do remember children being born. I even remember going to the hospital to visit some of the mothers," Crooks says.

Dingman agrees with Handy and Crooks, explaining that such information has never been part of the College's database of student information.

"In the last couple of years at Dudley House we've had about a half-dozen mothers that I can remember," Dingman says, adding that most of the mothers he can recall have had very different home lives than either Ocon or Payanzo.

"Most of them have been older women with grown children who returned to Harvard years after leaving," Dingman says.

One such woman is Suzanne Girlando '68-'96. Girlando left Harvard to get married and only returned to complete her degree after having three children.

Girlando, who commuted a total of 100 miles from and to her family's home in Fitchburg, Mass., each day, says that Harvard was very accommodating in providing for her transportation costs.

"One day my car died on the highway and I was without transportation," she says. "They provided me with a small grant to cover transportation that really helped me get my car back on the road."

A visual and environmental studies concentrator who spent half her weekends processing film for class and the other half caring for her son, Girlando was given a work-study job to help pay for college.

Since she and her husband lived with her parents, she had no arrangements with Harvard housing and was not on the meal plan. She usually brought a lunch to school.

Comparing Colleges

Other universities that report an equally small segment of undergraduate mothers in their student populations appear to provide even fewer resources than Harvard offers.

Columbia University, for example, refers undergraduates with children to area hospitals and agencies for child care, living accommodations and financial assistance. Mothers at Columbia, according to the school's Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Gemma Y. Campbell, may find themselves looking into local branches of WIC for food donations.

Mothers at Cornell University face a similar predicament. According to the Cornell Daily Sun, which recently examined the university's resources for pregnant women and young mothers, Cornell offers minimal resources. The student health center on campus has no obstetricians on staff, and the university provides no day-care services for students or university employees.

Most of the school's resources are geared toward pregnancy prevention. But, Cornell does offer counseling for students who have just found out they are pregnant and refers them to local obstetricians to ensure they receive proper prenatal care.

But even some schools with large student populations, like Boston University, have no housing, obstetrical or counseling services specifically for undergraduate parents.

"There are very few undergraduate parents, if any," says Colin D. Riley, associate in public relations at Boston University, adding that there are no official records kept of this statistic.

If a case of an undergraduate parent did arise, though, the dependent child would be factored into the undergraduate's financial aid package, Riley says.

But if the student were able to provide for more than 50 percent of her or his child's care, the student would be considered an independent and thus would qualify for more aid.

K. Sue Wood, senior associate of student awards at Stanford University, said in a June interview that an undergraduate mother at the university would most likely live on-campus in one of the available apartments. She said she did not know if a financial aid package would cover off-campus housing, but said that the child of an undergraduate would receive health insurance and that the university would pay a maximum of $3,750 per year toward child-care expenses.

But raising a child while attending college is not as rare as it seems. Of the 20,000 students at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, more than 800 have young children in their care, says Joanne R. Levinson, director of Amherst's Commuter Services and Housing Resource Center. Most student parents at Amherst live off-campus.

UMass-Amherst has many resources devoted to undergraduates with families. The school hosts dinners, brunches and information sessions and offers free child care, transportation and meals for participating parents and children. About half the participants in each program are undergraduates, says Levinson, who helped organize these efforts several years ago.

Parents at UMass-Amherst also have many financial services available to them.

In addition to factoring family size into financial aid packages, UMass-Amherst provides additional tuition assistance for child care for undergraduates. Funding for this program is provided by a $2 fee paid by all students. According to Levinson, even more money may be set aside for child care by next fall.

"We'd be glad to help create similar programs in other schools," Levinson says, recognizing that the large amount of support Amherst offers to undergraduate parents is "highly unusual."

But while Amherst may be more than willing to offer its services, Dingman says that undergraduate mothers will most likely always feel as if they have to knock on several doors before finding the help they need.

"It's likely to be always that way. When you have such a small population, that's bound to happen," Dingman says. "We want very much to be supportive, but there's no such thing as one-stop shopping when you're a single parent at Harvard."

A Worthy Struggle

No matter how hard it may be at times to get the support and the resources they need, neither Ocon nor Payanzo says they regret their decisions to have a child and to come to Harvard. Both women are adamant that other undergraduates who find themselves in the same situation they were in should not feel as if an abortion or leaving Harvard are the only options.

"I know a lot of girls who have been pregnant but don't think it's possible to do anything but have an abortion," Payanzo says. "I don't know why so many women quit school."

Ocon agrees.

"The fact of the matter is that people get pregnant, and we need to find a way to help them," Ocon says. "I have never once regretted my decision to have Bailey, but that's not to say that the process of raising her while at Harvard has been easy."

FRIDAY: Both Gina M. Ocon '98-'00 and Anna N. Payanzo '00 manage to be both full-time mothers and students. Part one tracks their lives at Harvard and traces their paths to college.

TODAY: What resources does the College provide undergraduate mothers? Part two explores the aid Harvard offers undergraduate mothers and compares it with that of other colleges.PLAY TIME: ANNA PAYANZO (right) lives off campus with her mother and boyfriend, who help her to care for her son, DYLAN

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