By Dr. Queena Hoang

Hundreds of student parents, educators, policymakers, philanthropists, and community partners convened in New Orleans for the inaugural Hope 2024 national conference led by Generation Hope. The three-day gathering ignited fresh ideas and fostered connections on how to best support student parents across the nation. 

Families Are the Experts

Dedicated to offering direct assistance to teen parents in college and their children through comprehensive, two-generation initiatives, Generation Hope is instrumental in student parents’ success. Founder and CEO Nicole Lynn Lewis shared, “At the core of Generation Hope’s work is our belief that families are the experts when it comes to the problems that we’re trying to solve.” 

Their belief was evident in all aspects of the convening—from the stories shared on the main stage to the plenary panels and breakout sessions, student parents were consistently centered as experts, and their voices were heard loud and clear. The narratives shared by each and every student exuded resilience, perseverance, commitment, and true joy.

A Thought-Provoking Question: Why Work to Center the Needs of Student Parents?

The question posed to each speaker and presenter during the conference was for everyone to share their “why” in doing this work. That question made an impression on presenters and attendees alike—I have reflected on my own “why” for the past week. 

As an advocate for student parents, my “why” is because I want to live in a world where higher education continues to be a lever for opportunities and a means to economic mobility. In order to do that, however, we need to address and tackle the hurdles that are created by both injustices and inequitable policies and practices that are placed on populations, such as parenting students. After attending Hope 2024, my “why” has been reignited, and I am hopeful and confident that there are also others dedicated to being change agents for student parents and their families. 

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation working toward equity for underserved and historically underrepresented communities by expanding access to educational and employment opportunities, increasing affordability of educational programs, and ensuring the necessary supports are in place for individuals to thrive. To do so, we work in the following verticals: Digital Equity, Intellectual Property, Smart Justice, Student Basic Needs, and Open Educational Resources (OER). Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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