This booklet tells the story of my experience at UWB, from application to today.

My Story


The University of Washington Bothell


By Jessica Cole

I grew up in a blue collar family in a poor community outside of Redding, CA where people were more concerned about how to stretch their food stamps for another week instead of college.  Despite this fact, when I was 11 my mom went back to college with a goal to become a Pharmacist and when I was 14 she got accepted to UW Seattle's Pharmacy program.  After moving to the lovely Northwest and watching my mom succeed in college, I knew that college was available to me as well.

Growing Up

I met the love of my life when I was 15 years old.  As a 31 year old mom, I'm not sure how to reflect back on that time, but long story short, we moved out together 10 days after I turned 18 and we were married by the time I was 19 shortly after we owned our first home.  By 20 we had settled into our jobs, our home, and our marriage.  As life usually does, things changed quickly: my dad's kidneys began to fail and we weren't sure if he would live much longer.  My family has an hereditary disorder called polycystic kidney disease, and I had been told for my whole life that my father wouldn't live past 50.  We made the decision to start our family so that our children could know their grandfather before he died.  We gave birth to our eldest son Robert when I was 21.

Becoming an Adult


When I was 29 life did that thing again, it flipped upside down. My marriage was shaky, I lost my job, and I wasn't sure what was going to happen next.  I felt helpless to make decisions for myself and for my family.  I had earned my Associates Degree doing night classes over a 10 year period, and I knew that in order for me to truly be independant I needed to finish my education.  There had been many points in my life where I was shaken, but nothing has ever shaken me quite like this did.  Yet, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and that was apply to the University of Washington Bothell.  I decided that I wanted to be an Occupational Therapist.

Back to School 

Why I chose

Occupational Therapy


Until I had my son I lacked a clear vision of how I wanted to contribute to society.  When I met him I knew that I would do anything to keep him safe, but when he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome I didn't know how or if I needed to keep him safe from that.  Suprisingly, I had to mourn the loss of my expectations for my son. But after I completed the mourning process I started to know him as he is and not through the lens of my dreams for him.  This allowed me to truly see him in his perfection and that started my journey as an advocate for neurodiversity acceptance.  Along our journey with Asperger's we found that school was the largest struggle.  I knew that special education reform was something that I wanted to include in my education. After searching through different careers, I knew that as an Occupational Therapist (OT), I could contribute to a community that I believe in, and I could gather knowledge that would allow me to advocate for better accomodations in school settings.

Major Choices

In my life I have learned that everything happens for a reason.  Originally I chose the major of Society, Ethics, & Human Behavior (SEB) because it seemed interesting, it was heavy in sociology (which the OT program at UW Seattle suggested), and more importantly it was the only program that UWB advertised as being able to complete in the evening (with childcare restraints this was a must).  Little did I know that studying SEB would change my perspective, my views of myself, and my views of the world.  It did this by presenting obstacles that I had to tackle in order to be successful.  One of those hurdles was that I had to start taking classes during the day in order to complete my prerequisites for the OT program at UW Seattle.  These hurdles sent me on a journey that turned me into an activist, and allowed me to establish my voice, my confidence, leadership skills, and much more.  I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunities that UWB has provided me.  The university has created space for students like myself to struggle, learn, and create change.  It is up to us, as students, to take advantage of it.

Why I chose

Society, Ethics, & Human Behavior



Feeling Unwelcome


       I was so lucky to be apart of a class where speaking about personal struggles was a given, and brainstorming solutions was inevitable.  After struggling to find classes that met my prerequisite requirements for my planned Master's program I became frustrated and complained in class.  The amazing thing was that while I felt so alone in my struggle, there was a whole classroom of people with the same struggle.  This discussion showed me that I this was bigger than just myself, other students wanted this to change as well.

          This is when Ruth Medina and I came together to start the Making School Accessible Project and we committed to creating change on our campus.  After learning about using protest as a catalyst for change, we staged a protest where we communicated our need for childcare in order to access our education.  The Husky Herald wrote a piece on the project.  My journey as an advocate had begun, but not alone.  When I refer to this project I will always say "we" because Ruth Medina and I have split the work 50/50 and without our partnership, the project would have lost steam long ago.



In Global Protest Movements we learned that a successful movement combined a bit of Malcolm X and a bit of Martin Luther King Junior.  In otherwords, we needed to break the rules a bit, and work with them as well.  After the protest we scheduled an appointment with our administration to assert that we needed support as parenting students at UWB.  The meeting was set up as a brainstorming session, but we had alternate ideas.  We planned a presentation and completed days of research to prepare.  Afterwards, UWB asked for different childcare solutions that would work for our campus.  Ruth and I committed to providing more information.

Now What?

Together, Ruth and I embarked on an independant research project which included gaining knowledge about childcares at other institutes of higher learning, researching fundings and regulations of childcares, and developing resources for UWB parenting students.  We then presented the administration with all of the information that we compiled.  To date we have presented information to UWB three times, and have completed 14 credits worth of work on the project.  This doesn't count the multitude of undocumented and uncredited hours spent on the project.  The work and the time has paid off, for it has laid a foundation for future work to be done on this project.     

The Parent Union

After the protest, the Husky Herald article, and the welcoming response of the UWB administration during our presentations, we knew that we were not the only parents on campus looking for more support.  In order to create a space for parenting students, we decided to form the Parent Union.  We also saw that the demand on our time was growing each day and so we knew that through the Parent Union we could gain support that would help with our ever growing project.  


The Parent Union has turned into a community of over 50 students, staff, and faculty.  The club acts as a support network for parenting students as well as an avenue for students to tell the UWB administration what obstacles they face while attending the university.  We have now taken part in events on campus and submitted proposals to SAF.  We hope to get our 2016/2017 proposals approved so that we can continue expanding the resources at UWB for parenting students.


The Parent Union has brought about something that we didn't expect, a community looking for support.  We are continually meeting with parents to listen to their struggles, refer them to resources, and help problem solve.  Also, as a club, we are able to represent a population of students on campus that used to go unheard.  


We continue to look for ways to properly represent and support the parent population on campus.


What's Next? 

So, that is the very short story of my time so far at UWB as an advocate for parenting students.  Currently, I am continuing my advocacy work on a few fronts.  First, I sit on the Childcare Advisory Committee with Ruth Medina, representatives from the faculty, staff, students, SAF, UWB administration, and ASUWB.  While sitting on the committee we have collectively developed multiple proposals, distributed, gathered, and interpreted survey data, and have assited in decision making about parent resource contracts such as sick child care, priority access to Kindercare, and discounts at childcare programs.


We have a few projects in the works which include continuing advocacy for an onsite childcare at UWB as well as hosting a forum with either the Chancellor or Vice Chancellor that would allow students to discuss barriers in their education at UWB.  Additionaly, we have been guest speaking in classes to discuss the importance of advocacy and tell people about the project.  We are also scheduled to present to the space allocating committee, the SUPER-G.


Some have explained to me that I will never benefit from the programs that I am fighting for.  I  explain to them that the Making School Accessible Project isn't about making life easier for myself and my family.  This project is about making it so parents don't walk onto the campus at UWB feeling unwelcome and alone.  I want them to feel as though they are welcome and encouraged to chase their dreams.  For this generation of educated parents will act as rolemodels for our next generation.







That's not all...

In my journey to become and Occupational Therapist, completing the pre-requisites has been especially difficult.   At one point I was told that I wouldn't be able to complete my prerequisites for my Master's program in conjunction with my bachellors.  That person may have known the consequence of saying that: it made me push harder.  Over the last four quarters I have attended UWB and Cascadia College simultaniously.  I have taken between 18-20 credits per quarter while maintaining my 4.0 GPA at both schools.  


I also had the privelage to intern at Sorenson Early Childhood School in Bothell.  I was able to work under an Occupational Therapist who's passion was contagious.  As an Occupational Therapist I hope to learn more about people on the Autism Spectrum so that I can use my advocacy experience to promote neuro-diversity acceptance and also work with public schools to serve atypical learners more effectively.  

So far I have told you about my advocacy work on campus, but that is only a part of my experience at UWB.  

Frequently asked questions...


Q: What happened to your dad?  Did he Die?


A: He didn't!  He ended up getting a kidney transplant and is now a community activist that helps dialysis and kidney transplant patients.  He gives speeches about patient compliance and serving the patient as a whole person.  


Q:  Did you get into UW Seattle's Occupational Therapy Program?


A:  I won't know until March 2016!  But I will post the answer on here when I find out, so check back!


Q:  Are you still married to your husband?


A:  Yes!  This June will be 12 years!  Our partnership is strong and happy!

Thank you for reading!