Students master academics and parenthood

At the start of college, Brie Davis joined the cheer leading team for Norwich University and was also on a four-year scholarship contract with the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

All was normal in Davis’s life. She had many friends, a wonderful family and a career waiting for her upon graduation.

In her sophomore year at Norwich University, she hit a bump in the road: Life as she had grown accustomed to it changed drastically.

From left to right: Matthew Johnson, Olivia Madison Johnson, and Erica Domingo. (Rosemarie Domingo Photo)

From left to right: Matthew Johnson, Olivia Madison Johnson, and Erica Domingo. (Rosemarie Domingo Photo)

In July of 2011, Brie Davis, now 21, a senior criminal justice major from Fredericksburg, Va., had a beautiful son named Jacob. Davis, along with many other students at Norwich University, faces the struggles of being a student and having a child.

“I was nervous when I found out because I wasn’t sure how my parents were going to react,” Davis said. “I thought they would tell me it was my problem now and I would have to take care of him and go to school.”

To Davis’s surprise, her parents were very understanding. Once she told her parents, they were very supportive and offered to help take care of Jacob until she is able to finish school.

“I was very fortunate to have such supportive parents and teachers,” said Davis, “Capt. (Steve) Veves from the Army department was the one who helped me figure things out through the Army.”

Davis was nervous she would lose her scholarship and contract with the Army, but with Capt. Veves’ help, she was able to sign up Jacob as one of her dependents as an ROTC Cadet.

Davis is not alone in the struggle of being a student and a parent.

“Erica Domingo, my fiancée, and I had Olivia Madison in August of 2010,” said Matthew Johnson, 22, a senior criminal justice major from Dallas, Texas. “We took her to the doctor to get tested and when she came out she was crying.”

“We were just sitting in the car and I told her not to worry about it,” Johnson said, “We would find a way to work it out.”

Both Johnson and Domingo’s parents agreed that Johnson should come back to Norwich and finish school while Domingo stayed at home to take care of the child.

“Erica is at home with Olivia and still taking college courses, just at a slower pace to finish her degree,” he explained.

Johnson said he is lucky enough to have parents willing to help with anything.

“My parents help us out a lot. They help us with diapers, doctors, and money,” Johnson said, “Anything we need, they are there for us.”

Some students, however, do not have the luxury of having their parents help them out with the double life of a parent and a student.

Jordan Mizioch, 23, a senior criminal justice major from Salem, Mass., had a son, Jaxon Bradley, just six months ago.

“I freaked out at first, almost had a legit heart attack,” said Mizioch.  “My girlfriend at the time was planning on leaving Norwich when she found out she was pregnant and she was just as freaked out as I was.”

Mizioch is no longer dating the mother of his son, but they “maintain a strong friendship and realize they need to put him first and be parents.”

“I am no longer here as a student this semester because I am working too many hours to pay for my son,” Mizioch explained. “I live up here and work and hopefully I will be able to go back to school soon.”

His son lives with his mother in North Carolina, but Mizioch has been able to see his son four times in the six months he has been born.

Depending on the age of the child and how often the parents get to see them also depends on how much their child really remembers who they are. For Davis it has been hard for her son to catch on that she is his mother.

“Because he’s so young it still takes him a while to remember who I am,” said Davis, “I call and Skype him all of the time but he’s too young to understand the technology.”

Johnson’s daughter is 10 months older than Davis’s son and is able to grasp the concept of a father and mother figure a little better.

“Olivia is at an age where she can comprehend everything and wants Daddy more,” said Johnson, “She knows my picture, so every time we talk on the phone she looks at my picture and says, ‘I see you Daddy’.”

As young as Mizioch’s baby boy is, he is still comforted by his Daddy’s touch when he is home.

“I love when he laughs and when I get to go to his doctor appointments and I love that he can look at me and know who I am,” said Mizioch. “It brings me to tears sometimes because I hope that he knows me and knows that his dad loves him and I’m only far away because I have to be.”

Ideally, Mizioch would love to be where his son is, but he had to grow up very quick.

“You can’t quite explain how you change,” Mizioch said, “You don’t care so much about yourself anymore. Your degree is still important because that will only better his life, but I definitely matured a lot from being a dad.”

For Mizioch’s future, he plans to find the best job he can to support his son once he graduates from Norwich University.

In just a few short months, Davis and Johnson will be joining the United States Army where they will finally be able to live with their child.

“Erica and I will be getting married when I commission into the Army and they will both be able to live with me wherever I end up going,” Johnson said.

For Davis, her son will be living with her parents for a few more months while she attends her training in Oklahoma where she is not allowed to have Jacob, but will be able to live with him as soon as her initial training is complete.

Although these young parents are growing up extraordinarily fast, they all had the same response when asked to give advice to future young parents.  “Embrace it,” they all said.

“I never knew what love was until my son was born,” Mizioch said, “I thought I did, but I had no idea.  You now realize why you’re on this earth.”

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