Fourth-year Chicana/o studies major Nallely Leyva-Diaz is a single mother of three at UC Santa Barbara, balancing work and school while taking care of her children — Ava, Mateo and Adan.

While parenting is a lot of work Levya said, she feels she has learned a lot from her time as a mother. Courtesy of Nallely Levya-Diaz

“Being a student mother means that I have different responsibilities than my fellow peers. I am a foundation for my children and I am setting an example for them to reach above the stars,” she said.

Leyva-Diaz and her family are residents of UCSB’s Storke Family Student Housing apartment complex, a university campus housing option for full-time registered UCSB students with families.

According to Maria Arroyo, an office manager at the complex for over 24 years, the Storke apartment complex houses over 300 residents, around 50% of whom are individuals experiencing being a mother for the first time like Leyva-Diaz.

“What I most admire about these mothers is that some of them are students and raising a family,” Arroyo said. “My respect and admiration for how they balance life, family and being a student. It’s very admirable how they balance all of that out.”

Although she stated that her day-to-day life often changes, Leyva-Diaz said a normal day begins with her cooking breakfast for herself and her children. She noted she will often try to clean the house before dropping her children off at school ahead of attending her classes. 

Leyva-Diaz stated that she “goes through the motions of school” and tries to “get as much homework done” as she can before picking up her kids, cooking dinner and working the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at her job.

“It’s hard to be honest. I sometimes feel there is not enough time to do everything,” she said. “I work around the clock in the means of parenting and being a student and work.”

While parenting is a lot of work, Leyva-Diaz said she feels she has learned a lot from her time as a mother.

“There’s a lot of sacrificing that needs to be done … but I get to learn with my children as we go through each phase of life,” she said. “The best part of being a mother is my kids and being able to be with them along with the little giggles or ‘I love yous’ that make you feel like your heart is melting.”

“Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate a mom and give her a break,” Leyva-Diaz continued. “I think that the UCSB community should celebrate mothers and parents not only on Mother’s Day but every day.”

Storke is one of UCSB’s two family student housing apartment complexes, the other being West Campus. 

Before attending UCSB, individuals fill out an application to live at Storke or West Campus where they often sit on a yearlong waitlist before being admitted. Families with children are prioritized.

Family student housing provides these families with an opportunity to live in private one- to two-bedroom apartments that suit their individual family’s needs while also surrounding themselves with a community of individuals with similar lifestyles, including single mothers like Leyva-Diaz.

Storke has programs designed specifically to help new mothers at the complex, including the “new mommy” support group where mothers bond with each other while their children play on the onsite playground, and the swap shop — a free thrift store that offers essentials like diapers, clothes and toys among other things like pillows.

“We want to be able to foster and provide a comfortable community for [the families] to feel like this is their home throughout the year as they achieve their goal with higher education,” Arroyo said.

A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the May 16, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.