By BRADLEY ZORGDRAGER
Andrea Collett has all the stresses of a college student. As a second-year student in Conestoga College’s recreation and leisure services program, she has six major assignments due over the course of 10 days. She has to balance that with all the volunteer work she does in her free time. Oh, she’s also a single mother.
How does she do it? Is she Wonder Woman?
Maybe, but she also gets a lot of help from the Langs Farm Village Association in Cambridge.
“I fell into a really good category – a single parent, full-time student. That put me in a really good place for support. It really sucked at the beginning, but now it’s good,” Collett said.
Collett’s two children, 10-year-old Tyler-Rose and six-year-old Nathan, attend the After Three program at the Langs Youth and Teen Centre, which allows the mother more freedom in her schedule until pick-up time at 5:30 p.m.
Participating students are picked up from school by workers and taken to the Youth and Teen Centre, where they can get help with their homework, have a snack, make crafts, play outside, among other activities. They even go on field trips a couple of times each year to places such as an apple orchard.
An average daycare costs enough as is and only really offers supervision and a place to play, but with all these added benefits how can a single mother afford it?
According to Collett, it only costs $5 a week, per child. The remainder of the cost is subsidized by the City of Cambridge, United Way and RBC. Collett said that even the $5 is often covered for her.
“I wouldn’t have been able to afford daycare. I mean, I could have probably gone on social assistance, but I was really adamant about trying to figure out how to do it without it.”
And she’s been able to get help even on days when there is no school for her children. Langs offers affordable daycare on professional development days, as well as a March break camp.
Bill Davidson, executive director of Langs, estimates that the Youth and Teen Centre helps 1,000 different youth each year through their various programs. In addition to After Three, they offer evening drop-in programs, pre-school breakfasts, open gym time and more.
Collett emphasized that Langs offers much more than just the Youth and Teen Centre. Last year they offered 103 programs and services.
“They’re one of the top community centres … It has a really family feel to it. The staff are amazing. The volunteers are amazing,” said Collett.
And since she began using Langs’ services, Collett has started helping choose those staff. She helps the Youth and Teen Centre with their interviews by offering a parent’s perspective on potential employees.
Ultimately, this leads to more confidence for parents and happier kids, which is something she relishes.
“It’s nice when I go to pick them up and my youngest is upset because he has to leave, so you know they’re happy there.”