Help with child care made all the difference in quest for better life

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 04:40 AM

Like many people who graduated high school in the mid-‘90s, Christy Poarch felt she didn’t need to go to college before getting a job.

In part this was because she already had a job. She had been working for Eckerd while in high school and had moved up to service assistant, answering to the assistant manager.

After graduating from West Caldwell High School in 1995, she started taking some classes at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute but stopped after a couple of semesters. Looking back now, at 36, she wishes she had made a different choice.

“At that time I was just young and dumb, I guess,” she said.

She got married in 1998, had her first child in 1999, and over the years worked a number of different jobs, mainly clerical work. As time passed, she felt she ought to go back to school, but now she had a family.

“It (college) was always something I wanted, but there was no time,” she said. “As a mother, I guess you feel guilty for taking time away from your kids and your family.”

Her family life accelerated – around 2004, because of her mother’s failing health, Poarch took in two children whom her mother had adopted, one a pre-teenager and one in elementary school. In 2008, Poarch had her second child.

By that time, however, finding a job was getting harder. Technology was accelerating, and many jobs required special training and at least an associate’s degree.

“It was very disheartening, thinking, ‘This is what’s holding me back. This is what’s keeping me from being able to provide for my family,’” she said.

Her husband, Joe, who works in IT administration for Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, supported her desire in 2010 to return to college, but she said it was an intimidating prospect with four children in the house, from a toddler to a teenager. Aside from relying solely on one income, looking at the tasks that would have to be juggled while she worked for a degree, “two years can seem like 20 years,” she said.

Not the least of the worries was her young son, Sawyer, then 2. Her husband’s pay alone couldn’t stretch to pay for full-time child care. She and Joe managed to pay for Sawyer to go to day care part of each week, and Joe’s mother took care of him the rest of the week.

Poarch started classes full-time in August 2010 with trepidation, partly from feeling out of place among so many students 15 years her junior. The family got by, but Poarch always worried, “What are we going to do? How are we going to make it this month?” More than that, she felt guilt for her husband bearing so much.

“You feel like you’re making him sacrifice for a decision I made,” she said. “You just feel like such a burden to someone because they have to carry everything, financially and emotionally.”

But she received good news the next year: She was getting child care assistance from The Foundation of CCC&TI.

That allowed the Poarches to enroll Sawyer in day care full-time. It eased the family’s finances. Most of all, it gave Poarch peace of mind and more time to focus on her school work.

She graduated in December with dual degrees in business administration and logistics management, along with certificates in marketing and business management. She now works at the information desk at CCC&TI’s Student Services.

“I love to be part of giving back” and helping people who are going through the kinds of things she did, she said. “I can just remember feeling … completely overwhelmed and thinking, ‘What am I doing?’”

Despite the sacrifices and difficulties, she’s glad she did it.

“If you are thinking about coming back to school, it is so worth it.”