Being a single parent can be difficult, but imagine trying to balance a college freshman year as a teenager with a small child.
That's what Michael Schieding does daily. He is one of 2.5 million single fathers in the country, according to census data.
And Schiedling also is the first male student to participate in a special university program for single parents at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.
A Better Life
Initially, higher education wasn't in Schieding's plan.
"I never planned on going to college, so I just kind of slacked off on my grades," Schieding said.
After his son was born during his junior year of high school, Schieding changed his mind and decided to go to college so that his son could have a better future.
"I realized that if I did want to have a good life for me and him that college would definitely be the best opportunity," the 18-year-old said.
So, while typical students unloaded boxes of books, suitcases and a laptop on move-in day at the college, Schieding had something else: his 17-month-old son Skyler.
Schieding became the first single dad in the Endicott's Keys to Degrees program; it's geared toward motivating single parents to continue their education by offering day care and scholarship assistance.
The school believes single parents are motivated to learn and aims to help out financially.
"Students are ending up paying $2,000 or $3,000," said Endicott College president Richard Wylie. "The rest becomes financial aid from the state, the federal government and scholarships from Endicott. We believe in this."
Giving It the Old College Try
Schieding is one of nine single parents bringing a baby and a backpack to school as part of the program.
Though the experience could be lonely at another school, Schieding said he has found friends in others like him.
"I've definitely gravitated more toward the other single moms," Schieding said on "Good Morning America" today, adding that they've been a big help as he and Skyler get settled.
"A lot of help, especially from the upper-class females, single moms. … They're also a lot of fun to talk to and just get through life."
Yet even with allies, the journey hasn't been easy. Some students differ on whether he should be there.
"There are a few guys and even girls that are kind of like, 'Oh, you shouldn't be here. You have a son. I mean, you have a young son.' It's mixed results," he said.
Schieding plans to continue pursuing his degree and has even decided on a major.
"I'm actually going to major in psychology with concentration on juvenile justice," he said. "I've watched a lot of my friends go down the wrong roads, starting with fights, getting into drugs. I've seen them go through the legal system and hearing all the things they have to go through. I believe I can make a difference and just help out younger kids."
As he pursues his goal, Schieding said he has realized how difficult it may be.
"I thought it would be fun and less stressful than it really is," Schieding said. "It's a lot more work than I originally thought."