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Through the Voices of Learners: A Spotlight on Delgado Community College’s Single Moms Success Pilot

Faculty and staff at Delgado Community College participate in a gallery walk during a design session where they built prototype programs to increase single mother learner college completion.


In fall 2020, community colleges in the Lab’s Single Moms Success initiative (SMS) cohort began to launch elements of their pilot programs, all while grappling with the operational, emotional, and public health challenges posed by COVID-19. This week, we are excited to share a preview of Delgado Community College’s Single Moms Success pilot program: SMART – Single Moms Accessing Resources Timely. 

Throughout Single Moms Success, Delgado has demonstrated its strong commitment to offering single mothers in the New Orleans region greater educational opportunities to advance their careers and support their families. 

Forty-eight percent of children in New Orleans are raised by single moms, and 58% of single mother families in the city experience poverty. According to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), single mothers in Louisiana who graduate with an AA are 43% less likely to live in poverty and will earn $282,760 more in their lifetimes than those who have just high school diplomas, and those with a BA are 72% less likely and will earn $627,954 more throughout their lives than those with just high school diplomas. The relationship between education, career opportunities, and poverty for single mothers and their children has inspired Delgado’s Single Moms Success team to design a pilot program that will offer single moms the support and flexibility they need to persist in school and build fulfilling, family-sustaining careers. 

Delgado’s SMART (Single Mothers Accessing Resources Timely) pilot approach will enable 2,000 single mother learners to make progress simultaneously in their education, careers, and financial support of their families. Initial pilot element rollout began in fall 2020, and the full pilot will launch in fall 2021. 

Program Benefits 

  • Holistic Support 
    • Online + in-person case management 
    • Aunt Bertha for needs assessments and resource referrals
    • Scholarships + childcare vouchers specifically for single mother learners
    • Transportation assistance
  • Single Moms Community + Network
    • Single moms online community in the Delgado app
    • Proactive outreach + resource/support sharing from staff
  •  Learning + Workforce Support Tailored to Single Moms
    • Industry-aligned stackable credentials with opportunities for paid internships
    • Flexible asynchronous online courses
    • Orientation course specifically designed for single mother learners
    • Industry-specific career navigation

What We’re Learning through the Perspective of Delgado Learners

    1. Demonstrating to learners how you care personally about them can impact their engagement, student identity, and so much more.
      “The biggest thing was them knowing that they’re not alone. They have a safe place where they can share. They can come to me in my office hours. I want to promote their success in their education, their life goals.”

      – Shelly Planellas, the course instructor for Delgado’s orientation course design specifically for single moms 
    2. Holistic support and care for learners as whole people needs to happen both inside and outside the classroom.
      “This semester has been so emotionally tough on me. My first day of the Connect Success class, I probably looked like a mess because I had COVID. Then two weeks ago I lost my great-grandmother, who has been with me for my whole life, to COVID. This was the woman I would go to for everything. She babysat me, bathed me as a baby, cooked me sweet potato pie – I’m used to seeing her every day. I told Ms. Shelly I wanted to give up. I’ve never lost anyone. I’ve been part of five living generations together, and I’ve never known grief before. I was so nervous about my grades in handling the grief. This class is what kept me going. Ms. Shelly motivates me, the other students motivate me, we motivate each other.”

      Tarcelyn James, a single mom and nursing student at Delgado, on how Shelly has played a key role in her support system during an intense period of grief 
    3. Making sure faculty are informed about services and resources can support learners’ awareness and access of support.
      “The class turned out to be a class I really needed. There were some amazing people. Shelly was so great. She broke through all my layers. I even cried in the class. It was even just like therapy for me. I think I really needed that. Shelly didn’t let up. Most of my personal information I never tell anybody. Through the lessons and stuff she was teaching us, she gave us the strength we didn’t know we had. I’m a single mother. I have three boys… Different activities we did in the class brought back different parts of my life and made me rewind and process… Another thing with Ms. P – every resource, we knew about it. I’ve been at Delgado since 2017, 2018. I went to school at night, in the early morning. I never knew about any of the resources that Delgado had. Ms. P is everything. That class, I think I took the most seriously of any. I got so much out of that class… I would work from 4am to 1pm. I would take an early lunch at work and either go into the office or in the car so I wouldn’t miss that class.”

      – Tricilla Thomas, a single mother of three boys who is about to earn her Associate’s degree in business with a focus on small business entrepreneurship 
    4. Believe in single mother learners’ huge potential by supporting them to identify their goals, believe in themselves, and connect with resources and opportunities to reach those goals.
      “This class has been a mirror to my life because it made me reevaluate myself, challenge myself, better understand myself, feel more confident in myself… We did a mommy and me team project for Ms. Shelly’s class. Our team name was the ‘Never-Giver-Uppers,’ and our mascot was the eagle because baby, we soar high. We beat the odds.”- Tarcelyn James, a single mom and nursing student at Delgado,


For more information on Delgado’s pilot, and additional learnings and resources for how to engage learners in your community, read our recent release “Walk in My Shoes”: An Actionable Learner Engagement Framework to Foster Growth, Belonging, and Agency.

Additionally, stay tuned for more updates to come about the Single Moms Success cohort’s progress by following along with our work in the Innovator Network and on Twitter @eddesignlab and #SingleMomsSuccess. 

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