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As a single mother and professor, I raised my 2 daughters on a college campus. My kids loved it.

As a single mother and professor, I raised my 2 daughters on a college campus. My kids loved it.
  • As a single mother, I needed affordable housing and childcare, so we lived in a rental on campus. 

  • My two daughters grew up on the college campus where I worked, and the students became mentors.

  • This home was supposed to be temporary, but I still love it years later.

Living on a 1,000-acre college campus in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, my children had the freedom to walk past a herd of cows to get to the bus stop, eat in the cafeteria, and wade with friends in the Swannanoa River. The only place they weren't allowed to go was into the dorms.

As a single parent, I raised two daughters — now 24 and 18 — in a tiny campus rental with a view of a white barn and sloping mountains.

More than 20 years ago, I made this decision as a financial and logistical necessity. Renting from the college where I taught environmental education was the only way I could survive on one salary with accessible babysitters at the ready. Yet, I couldn't predict the unanticipated outcomes of calling a college our home.

I wanted an affordable place to rent — and a cast of caring characters joined my family's story

As a single mother with a professor's income, money was tight, and this small house on the campus was a lifesaver. I viewed it as a temporary solution to my financial problem, but my children grew up on this southern land with fields, farms, and forests where they were known as campus kids.

Once, my neighbor Tom told me that my daughter, Maya, needed to stand back from the road when waiting for the bus. A pragmatic horticulturist, he'd watched my children walk through his yard to the bus stop each morning. I told my middle schooler that night, invoking the power of this unique community.

The eclectic characters in our life include iconic retiree Rodney Lytle, who helped Maya with a history project about Alma Shippy, the first Black student to attend the college; Painter Dave, who oversees maintenance on the rentals; and even Tallulah, a donkey who used to follow the girls on their walk to the bus stop.

We all cared for one another, and they all looked after my girls, becoming a support system I would not have had without calling the college my home.

The students also became mentors for my daughters

When one of my kids was sick, I'd dash to the cafeteria, searching for a trusted student I could pay to keep watch while my young child slept at home and I taught in the classroom.

Warren Wilson College is one of the few colleges in the country where students work part-time growing food in the garden, conducting research in the genetics lab, and curating exhibits for the art department. That meant my daughters could see their babysitters driving tractors in the fields or repairing caulking in our small bathroom.

"Students can fix everything we can't," one of my daughters quipped once. The hardworking students became their role models.

During the pandemic, I enlisted a soccer player from the college named Sierra to work out with my youngest daughter, Annie, when we felt trapped inside due to virtual school. The two developed a deep friendship while walking the expansive trails on campus. Their bond was so important that Sierra wrote about my daughter in her senior thesis.

This just might be my forever home

"You're too attached to this view," a friend told me years ago, encouraging me to buy a house when the prices were more reasonable. Another friend said she couldn't imagine living with my view of a dorm from the kitchen window.

But what I couldn't explain was my attachment to this college, its students, and its support system. It truly feels like I'd found a forever home surrounded by young people who want to make a difference.

What I know for sure is that my children grew into young adults in this valley, where I've taught for more years than most of my students have been alive.

I might have seen our tiny house as a stepping stone to something bigger, but the campus has become as firm of a landing as any I could have found on this warming planet.

This is the place where my kids are known and are at home.

Read the original article on Business Insider