Succeeding in college as a single mother
The sound of the alarm clock can be heard bellowing throughout the Colbart home at 7 in the morning.
After a few flutters of her eyes trying to meet the brand new day, 26-year-old Rachael Colbart wakes her 6-year-old daughter, Sophia, and they begin their morning routine. By the time the clock strikes 8 a.m., Rachael and her daughter are both on buses headed to different places.
As Rachael sits on the bus heading to the Lloyd Noble Center at Oklahoma University to go to work, her mind often drifts to the life that she once lived and all the obstacles she’s overcome.
If Colbart is not at work, she is on her break, which means that she is in class working on her education. This is a regular occurrence Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 4 p.m.
She thinks to herself, “This is where I’m going and this is where I came from. This seems rough but it’s been rougher; it’ll be okay.”
The memories begin to flood when she thinks about her first steps into the higher academia of college. The year was 2009 back at Oklahoma City Community College when she was a freshman with high ambitions.
“I came from a low-income home with seven kids and two parents who each have two jobs to support the family,” Colbart said. “Since I have two older sisters, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers, it was difficult for my family to support me financially, but they’ve always been there to support me right from the beginning.”
Though money was a tightly-spared resource, Rachael worked with different federal aids to help finance her education. This would all change in 2010.
“I was taking a few hours at OCCC and ended up getting pregnant around 2010. I left the school for about two years and raised my daughter as a single mom. By that time, I had lost my waitressing job and was doing anything that I could to make sure that my baby was able to eat and be taken care of.”
According to a report from NewsOK in 2012, almost 122,700 single mothers are raising one or more children in the state of Oklahoma.
Colbart knew her back was against the wall, and since finances weren’t coming from the father of an unborn Sophia, she had to rely on the resources of the Oklahoma DHS. While she worked with them, Rachael reminded them that she was still interested in education and bettering herself.
That was the first time she heard about Career Transitions program at OCCC. She also had her first encounter with Lisa Brown. Ms. Brown is the director of the program that works in conglomeration with OKDHS to help people in need get back to college and into the workforce.
“What we always say is that we care about the total student because we understand when you come that you have things going on in your life and you have to focus on college with the limited income that you have,” Brown said. “So when Rachael came, she had a lot of specific things going on in her life. We brought her in, sat her down with a box of tissues, and we just tried to problem-solve her issues and figure out how to resolve the ones that are at hand.”
Rachael would laugh at this moment with a sense of bitter fondness.
“I would cry a lot, but that was the thing about Career Transitions; they were the people who said it was going to be okay. It made me believe right then that I’m not alone and that’s what helped.”
Career Transitions works with the different organizations throughout the campus such as Student Life, Student Services, and the variable amounts of fundraising and or volunteer projects throughout the semester. Since the program works with OKDHS, it stays open year-round.
In the two years since Lisa has been acting director of the program, she has worked toward the goal to “have community partners that we work with from transportation and clothes to everything that we can think of that would distract a student from their education.”
Ms. Brown would even go on to state that her group founded an organization that was able to help house two OCCC students with full furnishing while they were in school.
In 2013, Rachael came back to OCCC with Career Transitions helping her along the way. Through many hours and hard work, Colbart was able to maintain her schoolwork as well as be an active mother to her daughter.
She would often be taken aback by some of the mannerisms and mentalities of different college students as they went through their studies.
“Some people are privileged and blessed enough to have parents who are able to buy them their car, pay for their apartment, and that’s great for them,” Colbart said. “That being said, don’t