Kathy Wyatt, wife of President Scott L Wyatt, dropped out of college to support her husband through law school and raise their son. Money was tight and they were worried about student loans. Years later she has returned to college to earn a degree in Family Life and Human Development.
Kathy understands how difficult it can be to raise a family while attending school. Many students face what she went through and drop out because of the financial needs that come with having children. She decided to step up and address this problem by raising funds for an on-campus childcare and preschool center.
Rallying people from the community and campus, Kathy formed a committee to discuss ideas, find sponsors and overcome obstacles. They are determined to make childcare affordable and accessible for students.
In the spring of 2017, they received a generous donation from the Sorenson Legacy Foundation which helped propel the project forward. Now dubbed The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center, it is committed to the retention and graduation of SUU students by providing childcare, a preschool lab, and parent and family support.
An alumnus who’s wholly supportive of this project is Roxanne Bennett, owner of an event company in Spanish Fork. Her husband graduated with a biology degree from BYU and got a job in Provo before she finished her education.
By the time their son was born, Roxanne still had a year left to finish her degree in elementary education at SUU. She rented a house in Paragonah, Utah where she stayed during the week and traveled home to Provo every weekend. It was too hard to attend classes with her son, so Roxanne found a local daycare.
One day when she went to pick up her toddler the owner couldn’t find him anywhere. Roxanne searched all over the house and eventually found him in a basement closet in a pack and play, sobbing. Finding him there was devastating.
“I called my husband and told him I couldn’t do it anymore because it wasn’t worth it,” said Roxanne. “I couldn’t find anyone affordable that I could trust.”
Her husband advised her to not give up and keep looking for a good daycare. Her sacrifices would pay off in the end.
“Trying to find someone to take care of my child in an unfamiliar place was hard,” explained Roxanne. “I didn’t know many people, didn’t have a lot of money and there were so few options.”
One day a classmate told her they had a neighbor who might appreciate extra income. The neighbor, a stay-at-home mother with two children, gladly took in Roxanne’s boy and she was able to finish her education.
According to the Utah Department of Workforce Services women in Utah have some of the lowest college graduation rates in the country. The most common reasons why women drop out of school are marriage and pregnancy. Utah’s divorce rate combined with the high dropout rate makes a large number of under-educated women in the workforce.
Higher education, especially for women, is more than just a backup plan or a good idea. Nowadays it’s a necessity. SUU hopes the new center will provide more accessibility to higher education, especially for parents.
The daycare center will be able to serve roughly 80 to 100 students and their children each year. With flexible care hours and an on-campus location, the new center will be convenient, affordable and a safe option for SUU students.
“An on-campus childcare run by people you know you can trust is great,” said Roxanne. “As a mother it’s comforting to be able attend classes knowing your child is in good hands.”
The facility will offer drop-off care instead of all-day care, which will significantly lower the cost for parents. Having the preschool and daycare in the same place will decrease operation and maintenance costs which will make it more efficient.
“Your education should be non-negotiable,” said Roxanne. “Even if it’s hard do everything you can to make it work. A college degree gives you confidence and prepares you for what comes next.”
The final estimated cost of the project is now $6.5 million, a million of which has been raised. Once enough funds are collected the center will be built south of the Multipurpose Building on the corner of 700 West.
To learn more about The Sorenson Legacy Foundation Child & Family Development Center or to donate to the cause visit www.suu.edu/childcenter.
“This was a dream a year ago and now it’s more of a reality,” said Kathy. “Seeing how many people are willing to help is exciting because I know it will change lives.”