Written by Selina Dunbar, Advancement Intern
When I first walked in to interview Mara Smith, I was greeted by a lively toddler. The little girl appeared to be in her own world, happily twirling and prancing around. This little girl was Smith’s two-year-old daughter, Ansley. During my interview with Mara, Ansley would watch Dora and Minnie Mouse on her mom’s phone and stop occasionally to run around or crawl under the table.
While Ansley’s energetic behavior was slightly overwhelming for me and probably would be for the average college student, Mara appeared to have everything under control.
Mara is a third year social work major at The Ohio State University. She is from a small town in Ohio and always knew she wanted to attend Ohio State.
When Mara became pregnant two weeks into her freshman year, she was determined to remain driven and focused, despite the challenges that lay ahead.
Not only has she remained driven and focused, but during her time at Ohio State, Mara has accomplished a lot, despite the odds being greatly against her as a student-parent.
A member of the Mount Leadership Society scholars group, Mara also participates in a suicide prevention program and interns with the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
She, in part, credits her success so far at Ohio State to ACCESS Collaborative, housed in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. ACCESS Collaborative is an academic and social support program that assists low-income, single parent students who are pursuing a college education at Ohio State.
Mara says that being a part of ACCESS has given her an abundance of benefits, including an environment where she can relate to and interact with other student-parents who attend Ohio State, providing her with a strong support system. Being a part of ACCESS also grants Mara priority scheduling, scholarships for books, and information about daycare subsidies.
She also credits ACCESS for her interest in social work. She hopes to graduate in the spring of 2017 and enroll in a one-year master’s program for social work. Mara wants to “fill the gap of lack of resources” in the social work field. Ideally, she would like to do family social work or social work involving medicine and children.
Although Mara’s plans have changed since becoming a student-parent, she says she “has morphed into what she wants.” Her ultimate message to student-parents is, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help; there are lots of people willing to help.”
Mara has found a helping hand in ACCESS Collaborative and has been given the opportunity to be a positive role model, a successful student, and an amazing mother.