Georgia Perimeter College Newsroom

Ann Marie Hormeku hugs her daughters, Aniyah and Abigail, as she prepares to attend a study night event. The Students with Children club sponsored an evening of care for the children so parents could study for their final exams. (photo by Bill Roa)

GPC students Ann Marie Hormeku, left, and Markiesha Thornton attend a study night event sponsored by Students with Children just before final exams in May. The organization partnered with a nearby day-care center to provide childcare while the student parents studied. (photo by Bill Roa)

‘Jags and Cubs’ club supports students who have children

by Kysa Daniels

Markiesha Thornton figures she would have graduated from college years ago if she had had the support of a group like Georgia Perimeter College’s newly formed Students with Children organization.

As a teen mom, Thornton originally headed to college in 1995, right after graduating from high school. “It was pretty difficult,” she says of juggling school, motherhood and work.

Eventually, Thornton abandoned college all together.

She re-enrolled 16 years later—this time at Georgia Perimeter. By then, she had three school-aged daughters. Thornton, now 37, graduated in May with an art degree and the benefit of having participated in the Students with Children support group, which launched on Dunwoody Campus this spring.

“I hope current students with children will really utilize the club because it is a great benefit,” she says.

Ann Marie Hormeku, mother of three, wife and award-winning student, began organizing Students with Children after participating in a service-learning project for an honors American government class instructed by Tamra Ortgies-Young. The assignment involved preventing teen and unplanned pregnancies, and it alerted Hormeku to the alarming number of students who fail to graduate from college because of parenting responsibilities or having children along the way.

“Studies show that if a student is involved in one campus organization or makes a significant faculty connection, he or she is less likely to drop out of college,” says Ortgies-Young, who serves as the club’s advisor, along with Dunwoody professor Dr. Gerald Pollack.

“Ann Marie is applying what she has learned about the problem of student attrition and its causes to a specific high-risk population. Quite frankly, she is brilliant.”

At 29, Hormeku admits that, even with a support group, balancing family and academics requires great focus.

“Having children and going to school is difficult—but not impossible,” she says. “We wanted to see what we could do to improve retention and graduation rates among students who had children or become pregnant.”

So far, Students with Children (also known informally as Jags with Cubs) has sponsored several events, including a welcome reception and finals study night, co-sponsored by Eagle Secure Shredding of Tucker. The study night enabled GPC students to leave their children at a Dunwoody child care center, free of charge, while they studied and received tutoring at the Dunwoody Campus Learning and Tutoring Center.

Earlier in the semester, the club hosted a forum that attracted about 30 attendees and focused partially on the impact unplanned pregnancies can have on attending and graduating from college. 

“The spring was our inaugural semester, and we were in a learning curve,” says Ortgies-Young.  “But we already have interest from faculty at Clarkston in starting a chapter there. With Ann Marie’s passion for assisting fellow students, I’m sure the club will be able to offer additional high quality programming in the fall.”