TWU Gift Program Provides Holiday Cheer for Student Parents - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

TWU Gift Program Provides Holiday Cheer for Student Parents

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    TWU Gift Program Provides Holiday Cheer for Student Parents

    A holiday gift program provides Christmas cheer for students in financial need who also happen to be parents. (Published Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017)

    Finals week is enough to stress out any college student. But what about those who are balancing their studies with raising a child? A program at Texas Woman's University is making Christmas for student-parents much brighter.

    On any college campus, the month of December can be downright crazy.

    "It's intense, but it's all worth it," said Carolyn Mask-Oats, a senior family studies major at TWU.

    Mask-Oats studies for 30 hours a week. Now, she's cramming for finals. While her school schedule is ambitious enough, her life schedule is even more so.

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    She is going to school full-time, all while raising a 6-year-old daughter, Aliyah. 

    "I have been a non-traditional student in every sense of the word since age 16, 17," she said. 

    Balancing school and parenthood is a challenge, especially with Christmas right around the corner.

    "So we have that financial burden," she said. "And I don't think any child who celebrates Christmas should go without Christmas."

    That's where TWU's holiday gift program comes in. Mask-Oats is one of dozens of students at the university to benefit. Parents apply based on financial need, and submit a list — first with what the child needs, and then what they want — for Christmas.

    "It's a true challenge to be a parent," said Amy O'Keefe, who runs the program at TWU. "You add the challenges of being a student, and you combine them with the pressures of a holiday, that's a lot."

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    The holiday gift program at TWU has been around for more than 30 years. The gifts are donated almost exclusively by faculty and staff. To date, more than 3,000 student-parents have received Christmas gifts for the holiday.

    "Christmas probably wouldn't happen at my house, to be honest," Mask-Oats said. "It would be very minimal.

    When she looks at her daughter, Mask-Oats says she wouldn't change a thing.

    "I don't feel like I've missed out on anything," she said. 

    Mask-Oats graduates on Saturday.

    "This is our degree," she said. "It's not just mine, and I take so much pride in knowing that this is something for us."

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