Changing the Narrative around Parenting in College: A Conversation with Author Nicole Lynn Lewis

By United Way of King County, on November 2, 2021 | In Events, Helping Students Graduate, Racial Equity

The national narrative around students of color is not what we see on campuses. We see grit, determination and resilience. Yet, the narrative is often about students of color not meeting academic standards, graduating at lower rates and so on. Often, this narrative is without any context of the institutional racism that students are overcoming and persisting to college completion every day.

Earlier this month we were joined by Nicole Lynn Lewis, author of Pregnant Girl, for an Advancing Racial Equity event. Nicole sat down with our president and CEO Gordon McHenry, Jr. to share from her memoir her own story of putting herself through the College of William & Mary as a mom.

She spoke of the transition she felt immediately when she saw those two pink lines of the pregnancy test: from college-bound student to failure. And how quickly she felt judged by her peers, her teachers and strangers.

“Nearly half of all Black female undergraduates across the country are parenting. . . We don’t hear about this resilience . . . this incredible juggling act that Black mothers are doing every day as parenting college students.”

Nicole Lynn Lewis

Lewis graduated from William & Mary and went on to found Generation Hope , an organization working to ensure all student parents have the opportunities to succeed and experience economic mobility.

“The pandemic has brought to light the fragility of so many of our systems,” Lewis said, and parenting college students have been an invisible population.

The student stories Lewis shared were vivid reminders of the importance of the work we’re doing locally to help students complete their college degree or credential. At Seattle Colleges, 1 of 4 students are parenting. Since the pandemic, we’ve seen more parent students reaching out for support with rent and basic needs so that they can stay in school.

Last year, 42% of the roughly 6,000 students served by Bridge to Finish were parents.

We knew before this economic crisis that poverty makes staying in school tough. Layer on a pandemic and its financial impact—and finishing college for working parents and low-income students can seem out of reach.

Like Lewis, we know that education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty. Thanks to donor support, we’re on ten college campuses helping students persist in their education.

The Advancing Racial Equity series exists to create an opportunity to hear from BIPOC leaders and expert. We value lived experiences and want to elevate BIPOC voices. Have an idea for an upcoming event? Please let us know!


All comments are approved before they are posted to the site.