For many folks who are attending APSU, running short of time and money is a daily event. When there are children at home, the juggling act gets just that much harder.

Nearly 200 people attended the ANTS Center’s FAM Fest held during fall break. For those who could get away to enjoy the free indoor event, it was a time to relax for a minute and talk.

Doshika Adams has two children with her high school sweetheart. They have been married for six years. Her husband works second shift at Hankook Tire while she is home with Lily, her one-year-old daughter, and Caleb, her four-year-old son. Adams is an APSU sophomore, taking 15 hours online, studying business management.

“I need to get into business to run business,” Adams said.

She wants to open her own hair salon. She earned her cosmetology license in Michigan before her first child was conceived. Adams said her biggest challenge is going to be “getting people to believe in [her] and invest in [her.]”

Doshika Adams, a sophomore Business Management online student, brought her daughter, Lily, and son, Caleb, to the FAM Fest at the Foy Center. SEAN SIPLE | THE ALL STATE

With her one year old still breastfeeding, she could not see herself sitting in classes. 

“I go to school all day long. I get up in the morning and get to those class assignments for five minutes and then get the kids for an hour. It goes like that,” Adams said.

The Adams’ have no extended family in the area. In the four years since they moved to Clarksville, they have worked through a bad situation where they were first living, a couple of jobs and a list of other challenges.

Despite it all, Adams remains optimistic and open-hearted. Just two months ago, her family welcomed into their home a couple and their two children.

Adams explained why this decision was so easy to make.

“The two [four year old] boys had a playdate and the rest is history,” Adams said. 

Three years ago her family needed a place to stay. They were taken in by a family who did not know them very well.

“I am just paying those folks back by paying it forward,” Adams said.

Their combined households, now with four adults and four children, share rent, groceries and daycare.

“It has been a blessing, a real blessing,” Adams’ new roommate, Cricket said. “What we don’t have, they share and what they need, we seem to have. It just works out that way.”

Ainsley Jackson is with her 10-year-old son Liam. She is a student in APSU’s nursing program. It is an intensive, five-semester commitment that many students say is serious and extremely time-consuming. 

“I like events like this, but trying to find classrooms around campus, I don’t miss that.”

– Doshika Adams, sophomore business management major

“I’ve got it easier than a lot of them,” Jackson said about managing the time and money it takes to complete her degree.

Jackson’s tuition is covered by the G.I. Bill. She only pays for textbooks.

“But I see all those bills and can’t imagine doing this without that,” Jackson said.

The FAM Fest offered Jackson a chance to spend time with her son because Montgomery County Schools were out for break as well. Jackson had to pay for a week of childcare, even though Liam was with her during her two-day break.

“If I don’t pay for my spot even when he is not there, I lose my childcare,” Jackson said.

Ever since she can remember, she has wanted to be part of Doctor’s Without Borders.

“You have to be at least a nurse to be able to travel with them. That is what makes all this sacrifice worth it. If you want to do something like that, everything else has to come second,” Jackson said.

Liam Jackson came to the Fall Fest on October 15th with his mother, Ainsley Jackson. He ate his fill of pizza before he attacked the blow-up climbing wall and slide. SEAN SIPLE | THE ALL STATE

Although she is married, she often feels the workload of a single parent because her husband is an active-duty member of the Army. If he gets transferred to another post while she is in nursing school, she will remain in Clarksville to finish.

“I’m in and I am not coming out until I finish,” Jackson said, even if she has to manage separation from her family.

At the next table sat Maria Harris-Johnson. This was her first time inside the Foy Center, even though she has been enrolled for three semesters. She brought her ten-year-old daughter, Mikya, who ate a pile of pizza and explored all the activities and games that the ANTS Center made available. Mikya eventually settled on a fuzzy dice version of Yahtzee with another young lady her age.

Harris-Johnson spoke of how she ended her active-duty service in the Army last year and started classes on the Fort Campbell campus. As of January 2019, she is taking classes on the Clarksville campus.

“I typically come to classes and go back home. I am a single parent so my schedule is real tight. I have to really make an effort to make time for socializing,” Harris-Johnson said.

She hopes getting out and doing things on campus will lead to more friends and more local connections.

“She is ten-years-old but she looks older, maybe twelve or thirteen,” Maria Harris-Johnson says of her daughter, Mikya. SEAN SIPLE | THE ALL STATE

She has roots in Memphis, and her daughter’s father has family in St. Louis, but  Clarksville felt right for Harris-Johnson, so she bought two homes and rents out one of them. She works part-time on base to supplement her disability income from the Army.

“All the friends I had in the military either PCS’d to somewhere else or got out and went back home,” Harris-Johnson said.

Rebuilding her support system includes “being part of Liberty Church and Women Elevated, a veteran outreach program to help veterans before they become homeless,” Harris-Johnson said.

“I have not really connected with people in my classes just yet,” Harris-Johnson said.

With a full schedule of accounting and economic classes, finding the time to spend with her daughter is a challenge.

“I am an involved parent. If I can’t be involved, I want to be informed.”

Maria Harris-Johnson

Mikya is “ten years old but looks like twelve or thirteen and is going through that teenage transition,” Harris-Johnson said.

“She is a good girl, but she needs some help in some areas,” Harris-Johnson said.

The trick is finding the time to stay involved and stay informed.

To get this elusive college degree that may lead to a better job and more money, there are going to be some sacrifices. Sometimes it is sleep, time with family, availability or time to work for extra money.

“Everything else has to come second,” Jackson said.

Nontraditional students make up a significant portion of APSU’s student base. 

The ANTS Center’s FAM Fest was a great way to involve students and their families who may not otherwise have a chance to take part in campus events and activities.