Single parents do not have to go it alone 

By Karen Herland

Students who feel overwhelmed and isolated by their circumstances tend to think they are alone.

Ellie Hummel, Coordinator of Multi-faith Chaplaincy, often manages requests for support through their Emergency Food Fund. “Students seeking support will say they are the only single parent on campus,” said Hummel. “I hear that three or four times a week, and I wish I could put them all in touch with each other.”

Now she may be able to.

A project is gearing up under the auspices of Elizabeth Morey, Dean of Students, to support single parents studying and working at Concordia and with the support of a number of on- and off-campus resources.

“There are a lot of challenges out there, I know,” said Morey, addressing an informal get-together on Sept. 24 at the Sir George Multi-Faith Chaplaincy. Single parents were invited to attend, meet some of the representatives who are hoping to get a support network off the ground and fill out a survey intended to identify their immediate and long-term needs. A similar get-together was held the next day at Loyola.

“We know that you have very little time, so spread the word, tell us what you need and from there we can see what we can do.”

Morey was speaking on behalf of a loose coalition of people she brought together last June to determine interest in such a project. Present were representatives from the Native Student Centre (which has a majority of single parents among its members), the Student Transition Centre, Counselling and Development, Multi-faith Chaplaincy, Advocacy and Support Services, the Arts and Science Federation of Associations, students from Applied Human Sciences who have been developing programs for single parents, and Miriam Roland, of the Board of Governors.

Ideally, Morey would like to see a peer support network, improved access to resources within and outside the university, special sessions targeting single parents developed through Counselling and Development, Health Services and the Financial Aid Office. The meetings with single parents also provided some new ideas like fund-raising projects and the swap of children’s clothing and games. Eventually, she would also like daycare and residence spaces reserved for single parents studying here.

Knowing that those resource-intensive solutions are down the line, she invited representatives of Project Chance, a residence program for women raising children alone who are returning to post-secondary education.

One of those residents, Stacie Merriman, described her situation before Project Chance the Sept. 24 meeting.

“I was at my wit’s end, crying every night. I didn’t have a fridge or a stove, I was making three-course meals for the three of us in a microwave.” She explained she had quit her job to devote herself to hairdressing school full-time, “I just wanted to be self-employed.”

She had just received a bill that she had no idea how to pay when the call came from Project Chance for an interview, “I left with the key to my new home.”

That was two years ago. Merriman will be starting in the theology department in January, after two years as an independent student.

“You want to give your child the best, and give yourself the best as well,” Merriman said.

Those who want to find out more, offer suggestions, or join a Facebook page dedicated to putting single parent students in touch with each other are encouraged to email Audrey Peek at or Morey at

Meanwhile, Morey has already identified a possible meeting room for the nascent group on the downtown campus.


Concordia University