Mary El’Bably knows first-hand the joys and financial struggles of juggling motherhood and student life. She raised her daughter while working on her undergraduate (BA Spec. Hons. ’12) and master’s degrees (MA 2014) in Sociology. She is currently a financial adviser at TD Bank and is set to begin the law program at Osgoode Hall Law School in September 2016.
While an undergraduate at York, El’Bably founded the Student Association for Single Parents (SASP) and served as its first president. In 2011, SASP won the Club of the Year Award at York.
With the seeds El’Bably planted, the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) has now established its Sole Support Parent Fund.
This new fund will benefit full-time undergraduate students who are sole support parents and enrolled in LA&PS. It will provide assistance up to 50 per cent of daycare costs during the academic year, to a maximum of $1000. The median cost of child care in the Greater Toronto Area is almost $1000 a month.
“I am delighted to be able to take forward what Mary had initiated and so many of our students have participated in. It is an incredibly inspiring story of student leadership and helps us advance our goal of inclusion in a very meaningful way,” said LA&PS Dean Ananya Mukherjee-Reed.
“I am a proud LA&PS alumna who has the privilege of witnessing this support system being put in place,” said El’Bably.
When she ran SASP, she identified financial hardship and childcare availability as the two biggest challenges student-parents face when studying at the postsecondary level. In the past, SASP has raised thousands of dollars in scholarship opportunities for student-parents at the University. It also ran Study Fest Events where student-parents studied without interruption while their children were safe in a campus childcare centre. SASP is now known as the Student Parent Association and has joined the York University Mature Students’ Organization.
“As a single parent returning to school, I recognized that single parents were an invisible group. I witnessed a gap between single parents and the community and I was eager to do something about it. As a result of this invisibility of single parents, their needs, including a supportive community, access to childcare and scholarship opportunities, were not met,” said El’Bably. “This led me to think, ‘I am not the first single parent at York and I know that I won’t be the last. How great would it be to create an organization that makes all of this available to student-parents upon admission?’”
The Sole Support Parent Fund, run by the Faculty from which El’Bably graduated, is generously supported with donations from LA&PS alumni. Those wishing to donate to the fund can contact Andrew Finn, director of development in LA&PS.