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Photo by Julie Mauldin / Senior Staff Photographer

 

 

The season of change

 

Sufia Alam
Editor in Chief
sufia@uab.edu

 

 

Sophia Aultman is not your typical college student. Where 90 percent of university students are 18 to 19 years old and a fresh graduate from high school, Aultman is a 31-year-old single mother of four.

 

 

From Walker County, Aultman spends an hour and a half every day commuting to campus and work. 

 

 

“I'll get up around 5:45 a.m. in the morning to get my kids up, get them on the bus and leave the house to drop my daughter off at daycare by 7 a.m. so that I can hopefully get to work on time,” Aultman said. 

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Sophia Aultman. Sophia has four children; Kylie, Madlyn, Jacob and Lilly Ann.

 

 

If you ask Aultman what sets her apart from her peers, she said it’s how she manages her time. 

 

 

“My life right now is only working towards my goals, working towards my education and working towards providing for my family,” Aultman said. “There's very little free time, which I guess is different than your normal 18, 19 year old college student who has all of the time in the world to become involved with the university and [decide] to study or, you know, not study.”

 

 

In fact, the only time Aultman does find the time to study is when all four of her kids have gone in bed for the night. This means she’ll start homework around 9 or 10 p.m. and work until 1 to 2 in the morning. 

 

“When I get home and I see everything that needs to be done as a mom, that part of my brain like clicks on and I'm sitting here looking around like, oh my God, who are these people?” Aultman said. 

 

 

Even when working 10-15 hours a week however, a single mother providing for four children may not be possible.

 

“We only get about $400 a month in food stamps,” Aultman said. “My parents are paying my tuition right now and I'm counting on my Pell Grants to help with the portion of the tuition that they can't pay.

 

 

While it may be easier to only focus on school, she said it’s just not possible.

 

 

“The fear of not being able to provide gas for myself to get back and forth to school, the fear of not being able to pay my bills or to take care of my kids kind of outweighs that desire to lighten up my load.”

 

Aultman also said she treats UAB as another chance of finishing her degree, so she can be qualified to pursue the career she wants in life – to become a social worker and work with veterans to help them transition successfully into civilian life. 

 

 

“My dad was in the army for 30 years and my husband served six years in the army and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 before I met him,” Aultman said. “I've lived through the difficulties that a failed transition into civil civilian life can lead to. I've seen how the person you care for the most in the world can turn into this monster that you don't even recognize anymore.”

 

 

Aultman is set to graduate next year. She saidshe plans to apply to the master's in social work program. 

 

 

“I want to be able to go in and help these veterans' transition successfully and receive the support and help they need so that their families don't have to suffer the consequences of a failed transition,” Aultman said.

 

 

UAB offers a multitude of resources for students who may need assistance with career planning or financial assistance

 

 

The Blazer Kitchen located inSuite 303 of the Hill Student Center is open Monday through Friday. The Blazer Kitchen’s mission is to, “increase food security in the UAB community by providing healthy food, resources and referrals to UAB employees, students, patients and their families,” according to their website.

 

 

Career planning and readiness is another service UAB offers. 

 

 

Students have access to a free Career Consultant specific to their major, as well as Handshake, which replaced HireABlazer this past fall. Handshake is an online platform that allows students to search and apply for both internships and full-time jobs, as well as sign up for interviews.

 

 

Aultman said she hopes her story inspires other students to try their best as well. 

 

 

“I think it's important for students to remember that no matter how hard it’s going, how hard it is to complete their education and pursue their education, that's it,” Aultman said.It's important for them to remember this is only a season and even if it's a hard season, it's still only a season and it'll pass eventually. And when it does, you'll reap the rewards of the work that you put in towards it.”