Single mom raises daughter, works toward education degree

Savannah Pennington

Each time she walks into her apartment, WKU student Ashley Cummings passes a wide variety of photos of herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Adalyn, placed on the walls and on her refrigerator door. Now, with Christmas nearing, a Christmas tree stands near the wall and stockings hang over the fireplace.

When looking for an affordable place to live as a full-time student and single mom, Cummings found Bowling Green’s Scholar House, a low income housing community for full-time college students who attend WKU, Bowling Green Technical College and Daymar College and have a child.

“It’s like a little community,” Cummings said.

A lot of the neighbors in Cummings’ building hang out or talk while the kids play on the playground. Two girls upstairs in her building even work with her at O’Charley’s, Cummings said.

The neighbors at Bowling Green Scholar House try to help each other out, like when they need someone to babysit. Cummings said she takes care of a boy, Gibson, for his mother while she’s at her night class on Mondays.

Angel Shoemake, a neighbor of Cummings has a 13-month-old daughter. With being a new mother herself, Cummings has helped her with any problems she has had, she said.

“She’s been great at helping me out,” Shoemake said.

Shoemake said she and Cummings often get together with their daughters.

“Adalyn is her big sister,” Shoemake said.

Many undergraduate students today are raising children while earning their degree. Out of the entire United States, 4.8 million undergraduate students are raising children; 2 million of those students are single mothers, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Cummings found out that she was pregnant at age 23. Cummings said that after finding out, she called her mother, saying she needed to talk with her. Together on their front porch, Cummings told her mother she was pregnant. Both sobbed together, realizing a lot was about to change in their lives.

With the biological father not in the picture, Cummings’ family as a whole tried to do their best to support her.

“My family was the number one thing that kept everything together,” Cummings said.

Her mother, Kathy Garrison, was a big help in her journey to becoming a mother.

“God doesn’t make mistakes; there is a purpose for this baby,” Garrison said.

At Cummings’ first doctor’s appointment, with her mother by her side, the doctor noticed pre-cancer cells in her cervix, Garrison said. The doctor told them that if she had not come in, the cells would have gone unnoticed and that she would have had cervical cancer. The doctor told the two women that the baby had saved Cummings’ life.

They couldn’t do surgery until she had the baby, but once Cummings had her child and was healed from giving birth, she underwent a successful surgery to remove the cancer cells.

“We call little Adalyn our miracle baby,” Garrison said.

Now 3 years old, Adalyn has shown to be a kind, well-mannered, energetic child, Garrison said.

While Adalyn goes to her daycare, Cummings spends her day either doing laundry and homework or going to her classes for her elementary education major.

Cummings found her love for teaching from her mother, who was also an elementary school teacher. Growing up as a child, she would pretend she was a teacher and eventually found a passion in it, she said.

After switching schools from WKU to Bowling Green Technical College in 2012, then back to WKU in 2015, the 2016 Bowling Green Scholar House’s Patty Beasley Scholarship of $1,000 will help her complete the last year of classes she has to finish her degree, Cummings said.

With classes, being a server at O’Charley’s and taking care of Adalyn, Cummings hasn’t found a lot of time for anything outside of her usual tasks.

“I’m a home body; I used to party, but not anymore,” Cummings said.

On typical nights Cummings spends her time playing with her daughter, doing crafts, watching movies or playing Frozen. Playing Frozen is one of Adalyn’s favorite things to do; Adalyn will wear her light-up Elsa dress and run around mimicking Elsa’s movements in the music video played on Cummings’ phone while she sings the movie’s hit song, “Let it Go.”

Although time to time the days can become more stressful to Cummings, she copes with it, Katan Parker, Cummings’ boyfriend said.

“No matter what, she wakes up in the morning and gets the work she needs done, even if she clearly doesn’t want to do it,” Parker said.

Parker has two boys of his own, who come over a lot and play with Adalyn, Parker said.

With the end of the fall semester nearing, many students may find themselves under stress with the responsibilities of school, work and home life.

“It’s stressful, but at the end of the day you know you have to do it to make a better life,” Cummings said.

Reporter Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-2655 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.