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Wilson dedicates residence program for women, children

January 30, 1998

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania first lady Michele Ridge presided over a dedication ceremony Friday for Wilson College's permanent Residential Women with Children program.

More than 50 people attended the ceremony at Prentis Hall on campus, site of eight new family type dorms opening this year to house single mothers and their children. Most of the $400,000 to renovate the building came from a private foundation.

The residence program began on a pilot basis at the school, officials said.

The brainchild of Wilson President Gwendolyn Evans Jensen, the program lets single mothers work full time on four-year degrees while keeping their children with them on campus in a dorm-like setting with shared kitchen facilities.

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Amy Jean Christie, 23, of Chambersburg, and her son, Selby, 4, are in the program.

She was a full-time student at Wilson, was working two part-time jobs and raising her son at the same time.

"There wasn't enough time for him and my studies," said Christie, who is majoring in political science and who hopes to teach after graduating in 2000.

Christie said she now has everything she needs - child care, a library, computer access and a family like atmosphere.

"We help each other with our children. It allows all of us to further our education and our careers and help our children at the same time," she said.

Christie is one of six single mothers with children living on campus.

Kathy Houghton, dean of students and director of the residential program, said Wilson hopes to renovate two more floors in Prentis Hall to expand the program when money becomes available.

Marcy Poet, a single mother of a 16-year-old girl, was the first to sign up for the program in 1996. She graduates in June with a degree in psychology.

It took Poet, from York, Pa., three years of part-time study at Harrisburg Community College to get her two-year degree.

"I didn't even have my high school diploma," she said.

Her daughter is a junior at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

"It's no accident that a commitment to single mothers takes place at a women's college," Jensen said. "Having a child doesn't mean you can't get an education."

Ridge said the residential program encourages children, who see their mothers working hard for their educations, become lifelong learners.

"You work together as a family to pursue goals," she said.

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