Photo: Connor McCourtney
Nate Huston, 25, is married and has two children. He is also a full-time music education student at Drake.
“It’s not like you’re ever ready to have two kids and go to school,” Huston said. “But you’re a parent first.”
In 2005, Huston was a teenager beginning his college career at Iowa State University. His high school sweetheart, Kristina, stayed in their hometown of Martinsdale, Iowa, but they continued their relationship. During Huston’s first semester at ISU, Kristina got pregnant.
Huston dropped out of ISU and prepared to have his first child, Julian. Shortly after Julian’s birth, the couple married.
Huston worked construction to save money to go back to school. When Julian was two years old, Huston cross-enrolled at Des Moines Area Community College and Drake. This is his second year attending Drake full-time.
In 2009, Huston and his wife had another child named Leland.
“I take school a lot more seriously than I did that first semester at Iowa State,” Huston said. “I think I will receive a better education now that I have kids, because I pay attention to how much money each class costs.”
Huston and his wife live in Martinsdale and do “tag-team parenting.” Kristina works nights at Target, so when Huston gets home from school, it is time for her to go to work. Huston doesn’t even have time to think about his homework until both kids are in bed.
Huston said a perk of having kids so young is that he and his wife will still be pretty young when their kids graduate from college.
“We’ll have a lot of fun then,” he said.
Liz Howett, 21, has a one-year-old daughter named Candice. Howett is a full-time student at Drake and is double majoring in psychology and advertising. In addition to her schoolwork, she is also participating in a custody battle for her daughter.
“Candice gives me a purpose,” Howett said. “Whether I succeed in school or not, I’m a mom.”
Howett met Kyle, Candice’s father, the summer before she started school at Drake. They dated on and off for two years before Howett got pregnant.
Shortly after Candice was born, the couple split up. Kyle still sees Candice almost every day, but Howett wants to ensure that she will always have custody of her daughter.
Howett works at The Game Sports Bar. While Howett is working, in class or doing homework, Candice is taken care of by Howett’s parents or sister.
“The biggest battle has been child care,” Howett said. “It’s hard to study with a young child.”
Candice often spends time in Goodwin-Kirk Residence Hall, where Howett’s little sister lives.
Howett does get some time to pursue her hobbies. She recently joined the Treblemakers, a woman’s a cappela group at Drake.
“I love to sing,” she said. “I would do it even if I didn’t have the energy.”
Howett wishes she was able to be more carefree, but would she change what happened?
“Not now. I love Candice more and more every day,” she said. “The more I get to know her, the more I wouldn’t be able to live without her.”
Madonna Vahdat received her computer programming degree in Iran. Ten years ago she moved to the United States and married. Vahdat now has an eight-year-old son Ameen, and is in her third year as a full-time student at Drake.
“It’s hard to manage everything at the same time,” Vahdat said. “But being a college student, you have to have knowledge of time management.”
Vahdat is studying health science. She often finds herself cooking, doing laundry and completing homework at the same time. Since English is Vahdat’s second language, she often has to read things twice to make sure she understands.
“I use every minute of every day,” Vahdat said. “I’m not an ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ kind of person.”
Having a family can lead to a lot of unforeseen obstacles, so Vahdat does all her homework a week ahead of time.
“If my son has to stay home because he’s sick or there’s a snow day, then I have to miss class,” she said.
Vahdat is completing her capstone this semester by working at the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care. She will graduate in May. After taking a year off, Vahdat plans to attend graduate school at Des Moines University.
“It’s never too late to learn,” she said.
Vahdat said Ameen is excited that his mom is in school. She thinks he is a better student because his mom is a student.
“He is very independent and I never have to tell him to do his homework.”