Single parents like Erica Brizuela, 23, rarely have time to get together with other single parents, or attend workshops, no matter how helpful they promise to be. Brizuela has a two-year-old son, works as a waitress, and takes classes at Montgomery College. When she heard about the Single Parent Conference at the College’s Rockville Campus—child care provided—she decided to attend. She is glad she did.
“I attended five workshops, and they were all very informative,” says Brizuela, “but the resume writing workshop was my favorite. I learned how much has changed since high school.”
The August event was an opportunity for single parents to get information that can help them meet their educational, career, and personal goals. Workshops focused on practical matters—building and managing credit, paying for college, home and vehicle maintenance, and living in multi-generational households. A significant target group was teen parents.
“To my knowledge this is the first time an event like this has been held in Montgomery County,” says Beverly Coleman, event organizer and director of the College’s Educational Opportunity Center.
Coleman opened the all-day event with some startling statistics: “In 2014, more than 60 percent of families living in poverty in Montgomery County were single, female-headed households,” she told them. “In 55 percent of those households, the female head had only a high school diploma or less.”
Keynote speaker Nicole Lewis, founder of Generation Hope, spoke about her own experiences as a teen parent, which included finishing high school after becoming a mom. Lewis’s organization promotes success for young and/or single parents up to age 23. But the workshops were the main attraction.
“By far, the most popular workshops were those that covered managing finances and credit,” Coleman says. “Next year, we plan to open those workshops to more attendees, and to extend all the workshops to a full hour.”
The conference was open to the public and free for all attendees. MC staff teamed with community partners, including Montgomery County Health and Human Services, Montgomery County Public Schools Head Start, City of Gaithersburg, the Women’s Commission, Family Services, Inc. (Gaithersburg), plus several nonprofit organizations and county agencies that serve single parents. Event co-sponsors included United Bank, the Bank of Gaithersburg, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, and Subway.