Jessica E. 

Social Work Degree Program

"I started UMSL in January of 2020, and I have enjoyed my time being a social work student in the program. As a student and a parent, I have experienced many challenges in life. In August of 2020, I had to have major knee surgery and as a result had to leave my job because I was unable to work for several months. The surgery required me not to bear weight on my left leg for eight weeks with a total recovery time of five to seven months. This caused me immense stress because I would solely have to reply on my mother to help me. She also had to help me care for my four-year-old daughter, Carli. I also struggled with how I would be able to attend fall semester without being able to walk. I spoke with Shereka Kemp in Student Advocacy and Care at UMSL, and she was able to refer me to Disability Access Services. Their services were able to help get me disabled seating for my classes. I was also given flexibility in regard to coming to class in person, but I still faced challenges with getting around UMSL’s campus when I had in person classes. Thankfully, I was able to purchase a scooter with my financial aid money. It was incredibly challenging navigating around campus with a scooter. I had to find accessible ramps and alternate routes that were different from what I was previously used to. It was difficult for me to move out of the scooter while in class. I was forced to sit in my scooter for the entirety of class. I would bring along ice packs to my classes to help me manage my pain.

In addition to my post-surgery challenges, I also faced financial hardships. I relied on the Food Pantry at UMSL to provide me with monthly food packages. I was also able to take out a small loan through financial aid to help pay my bills while I was out of work. The loans helped, but it still wasn’t enough for me to keep up on all my bills and financial needs. As a result, I had to file bankruptcy this year. That whole process was stressful, but it was necessary to rebuild my credit.

In addition to my financial stressors, I struggled to stay focused in school due to my high level of pain after surgery. In order to pace myself, I would write down all my assignments in a calendar book so that I could keep track of when things were due. Each day, I would work on my assignments to prevent myself from falling behind in my courses. While going through these hardships, I still had to parent my daughter. I struggled to do simple task such as bathing my daughter and cooking for her. When I was at home I had to navigate through my home with crutches. The best way I could get through these difficulties was by simply trying my best. Even though I was unable to walk, I continued to plan fun activities for my daughter and I to do at home, such as puzzles, painting, watching movies, and indoor gardening. I also found Khan Academy for Kids online to help her with counting her letters and numbers.

I experienced depression after my knee surgery. I could no longer care for myself or my daughter without assistance. I felt useless. In November I had faced more issues with the knee that I had surgery on which resulted in a second surgery. I experienced high levels of pain. I told myself that I would not give up I was going to fight through the pain. When I went to physical therapy, I fought hard. After the surgery in November, I had to learn how to walk again. This was an incredibly challenging thing to do through dedication and hard work I was able to walk again in January 2021. During that time, I made it through, and I was able to pass all my classes and make the Dean’s list with a 4.0 grade point average.

I have experienced pain in my other knee now that will require surgery. I know that I will face challenges with school and being a mother. I am prepared to handle anything that comes my way. I was able to receive financial assistance at the YMCA close to my house to enroll my daughter summer camp. This will give her an opportunity to do activities that I am unable to participate in due to my knee such as swimming and various other sports. I am also enrolled for the summer semester at UMSL and practicum. I graduate in December 2021 with my bachelor’s in social work. I refuse to let anything keep me from graduating on time.>

As a parent and student, we all face challenges. It is important to lean on the support that you have whether its family, friends, or various organization on campus. If I did not have the help and support from my mother, peers on campus, professors, and UMSL various organization I would not have made it through my challenges. It is important to never be too proud to ask for help."