Hanna Hopkins was attending massage therapy school when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world in March 2020. The school closed and never reopened. “It was kind of a pivoting point,” she said.
Two months later, while visiting a friend in Omaha, Hanna drove past College of Saint Mary and noticed the expansion to the Lied Fitness Center. The friend told her she should check out the plans on the website when she returned home to Vermont.
Hanna did. That’s when she found the Mothers Living and Learning (MLL) program. The University has offered single mothers on-campus housing since 2000. A $10 million dedicated residence building – Madonna Hall – was built for the program in 2012.
“I immediately clicked on it. I immediately found a program and applied,” the 32-year-old mother said.
After attending community college, Hanna transferred to CSM. She and her 4-year-old son Aelfwin moved from Jamaica, Vt., to Omaha. She began classes, working toward a kinesiology and exercise science degree, in January. Hanna explained to her son that they were “going to the big school together.” Their first experience was a pep rally to kick off the semester. “We had a blast,” she said. “I feel like we’re giving him the full college experience at four.”
Hanna and Aelfwin, who attends Spellman Child Development Center, has found the set routine of college life has helped both of them. Before attending CSM, Hanna worked three jobs. Adding college to an already hectic schedule would have been difficult.
“He kind of helped me adjust here,” Hanna said. “Because he is so outgoing, he talks to everybody. He talks everybody up, and I’ve met so many people that I wouldn’t have necessarily met. It’s been great.”
Now, Hanna has a work-study position with Barb Treadway, the assistant dean of support services. She’s also added a theology minor after taking a class with theology professor Dr. Emily Kahm. She wants to develop wellness programs for churches.
“How do I apply this theology minor to what I want to do? I think that’s a niche that hasn’t been explored,” she said. “I also have an interest in chiropractic work. I’m thinking of moving forward with that.”
Hanna knows all of this is possible because of the support she receives through the MLL program. Not only does she receive encouragement from the University’s faculty and staff but also from her fellow moms in the program.
“I think because we’re all on the same page here that we’re getting and giving advice to each other, we’re offering support. People come and ask me every day ‘how are you doing?’” she said. “I think Aelfwin being able to go to a painting party on campus and the pep rally and basketball games and be a part of the community is huge. If I went to another school, Aelfwin would not be so involved in this part of my life.”