Latwanna Singleton ’13
Like many of her peers, Latwanna Singleton had her hands full as an Appalachian State University student. She had books to read. Papers to write. Trips abroad to pursue. Projects to complete. However, there were also diapers to change. There were always diapers to change.
Campus life can be daunting for a first-generation college student, even more so when that student is a mom.
“Graduating college as a single mother was much harder than I anticipated,” said Singleton, who was among approximately 350 Walker College students who were awarded degrees during the May 11, 2013, commencement at Appalachian. “It was a struggle because being a student never ended and neither did being a mom.”
The struggle has its highlights. Singleton’s family was in attendance when she walked across the Holmes Convocation stage, her 3-year-old daughter Alanna with them, staring in awe. The toddler wasn’t sure exactly what was happening, but she was focused on being with mom.
“I am not really sure if Alanna knew what ‘graduating’ meant; however, she is very advanced at three,” Singleton said. “She was excited to say she was coming to my graduation, and she told me she watched me walk across the stage. She told me she loved me, and she was anxious to wear my cap and hold my diploma.”
Mother and daughter were mostly inseparable the past few years. Singleton came to Boone from Wilmington, where she graduated from New Hanover High School. While searching CFNC.org for colleges, she discovered Appalachian State University. She asked her family if they could visit.
“We took a trip in the fall to do a campus tour, and before it even began, I knew that Appalachian was where I wanted to be. I could feel it,” she said. “Everyone was friendly, and it felt like home.”
“I began my college career as an accounting major, but I quickly realized it was not for me. I wanted a career where I could be more social and interact with people daily rather than be responsible for the numbers in a firm,” she said. “I discovered the risk management and insurance (RMI) major through a program called Building Insurance Talent (BIT) for minorities. They were attempting to give minorities in the College of Business exposure to what a career in insurance looked like.”
The BIT program attracted freshmen and sophomores, and introduced them to the RMI industry. The students interacted with industry professionals and discovered career opportunities within the RMI field.
Among the program requirements is a minimum GPA of 3.0. Participants also must take a study abroad trip prior to graduation. Singleton took two: London and China, the latter as part of the prestigious Holland Fellows program.
As much pressure as academics may have exerted, Singleton’s desire to succeed for her daughter’s sake brought even more. “My biggest challenge was finding a balance between being a mother and a college student,” she said. “I would stress over my grades because freshman year I received straight As, and I wanted to keep it going. I knew that my competition in the job market were students who did not carry my responsibilities, and I wanted to make sure I kept my grades up to par.
“I also knew that Alanna depended on me now, and she needed my time now as well as in the future, because I had to provide for her. I always felt as though there was something I needed to be doing. I felt guilty for not spending time with her when I had homework to do, and I felt guilty for spending time with her because I had homework to do. It was an ongoing battle.”
One strategy to combat it was creating a routine. “A typical day consisted of waking up and getting Alanna and me ready for school, feeding her while making sure everything I needed for the day was packed up, and getting her lunch together. Then I would take Alanna to Appalachian’s Child Development Center,” Singleton said. “After that, I would catch the bus to class. In between classes, I would try to study, and typically I would stay on campus until around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. to catch the bus back to the preschool, pick up Alanna, and head home.”
“Once home, I would make dinner, give Alanna a bath, put her to bed, and hopefully get some work done, if I did not fall asleep.”
It was a tough workload for anyone to do alone, and Singleton admits to being overly self-reliant. It was something that had to change.
“I am an only child, and before college I had a hard time socializing, making friends, and depending on people besides my parents,” she said. “With this experience, and my parents’ coaching, that had to change. I had to trust that the people who offered me help genuinely meant they would assist me, and I had to ask for help when I absolutely needed it. I only called them as a last resort because I never wanted Alanna and me to be a burden.”
Singleton eventually discovered a wealth of support from within the Walker College. When asked to name anyone who influenced or aided her during her time at Appalachian, she responded with a list. And she fears it’s incomplete.
“There were so many faculty and staff who impacted my life, and I am really afraid to begin naming names in fear that I would leave someone out, but here I go: Mrs. Janet Beck, Dr. Unal Boya, Ms. Michelle Boisclair, Mrs. Christine Dave, Dr. Dave Wood, Dr. Karen Epermanis, Dr. Jennifer Henson, Mr. Matt Dull, Dr. Rick Cotton, Mrs. Kim Carter, and the entire Child Development Center Staff. I credit these people to be my backbone at Appalachian State,” she said.
“They supported me and helped push me through on those days I was not sure I was going to make it. They encouraged me, believed in me, and gave the best hugs when I needed them. I consider them mentors and friends. They made me feel like a part of their own families.”
Moms know the importance of family. And Singleton has more than one. “Appalachian State University is my second home, and without the help of my Appalachian family, in addition to my real family, I am not sure I would have made it.”