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RD Speaks: Raising a Child on Campus

By Geneva Sambor; For The Clock
On April 11, 2016

RD Speaks: Raising a Child on Campus

Geneva Sambor
For The Clock

Domenica Medaglia-Brown is a Residence Director on PSU campus currently in Langdon Woods. She gave The Clock staff a unique opportunity to interview her about her experience raising her eight-year-old son on campus.

The Clock: How long has little Dom lived on campus?

Little Dom: Eight years.

Domenica: He has literally lived on campus his entire life. He lived in Pemi the first year he was born, and then he lived in Grafton, then Pemi for another year, then here, Langdon Woods, then the student apartments and now back here. He actually has lived on campus since I was pregnant with him. I went into labor in Pemi Hall, in the apartment, not in the office. He was born at Speare Memorial Hospital. He was born early. He was born at 36 weeks old, then he transferred to Dartmouth where he stayed for a little while-

Little Dom: And I was hairy!

Domenica: He was extra hairy when he was born--

Little Dom: I looked like a chimpanzee when I was born.

Domenica: We were transferred to Dartmouth for a little bit and then we came home. The really cool thing though is, when I was first in labor I wasn't one hundred percent certain I was because it was so early, and I remembered going to see my doctor and then coming back and there were students hanging out in the lobby. One of the CAs said, hey, is everything okay, how did it go? And I'm like, well, I'm actually in labor, and the students were like, but he's not due until Thanksgiving, and I said It'll be OK, it'll be OK. The doctors said he's far enough along. Students were that compassionate.

The Clock: Who do you like talking to the most on campus?

Little Dom: Probably Joe. I like him a lot, and he's also my godfather.

The Clock: Do you think UPD does a lot of good things for the students?

Little Dom: Mhm.

The Clock: What do you think they do?

Little Dom: They take care of them, and when Joe leaves he lets the people in when the doors are locked. After he leaves, he unlocks the doors so the students can get in.

Domenica: He likes to keep people safe, right?

The Clock: What is your favorite thing about living in the dorms?

Little Dom: My favorite thing about living in the dorms is because our apartment is right down here and lots of students are down here so I can come down here whenever I want and just see the students. And it's also close to my mom's office, so that means that I can just go down and see her.

Domenica: When you come home from school you can stop in and say hi.

Little Dom: And I'm friends with mostly all the students, right? Except one student. He's very mean.

Domenica: But that's okay, because you're friends with most of the other people.

The Clock: Does your son feel different from other kids that he goes to school with?

Domenica: I think sometimes he has, I mean I know sometimes he had conversations that are different. He's exposed to a lot more things, like adult things, and so there are some things that we don't talk about at school so much because some of our friends aren't ready to learn about them. He experiences things differently, like he's impacted by what's happening on campus as well as what's happening in his everyday life. So, good things happen on campus, like a sports team makes it to a playoff, you know he gets excited about that, he feeds off that energy. But it also is the same,so like, when a student passes away that he knows, he also experiences that in the grief. One of the things that we try to teach him is that you never know how long people are going to be with us, and I think it has been healthy for him to see a grieving process, to be able to participate in the candlelight vigils, and be able to see a community come together. He also knows that sometimes students will live with us for a year, and sometimes they'll live with us for more than that. I think he definitely sees things differently. A lot of his classmates don't understand some of the things that he talks about. Sometimes little Dom will talk about things like a student that's transgender and his peers don't know what that means.He explains to them that sometimes you're born in a girl body but you have a boy brain and so sometimes I get phone calls from parents that are like, what is your student talking about?

Sometimes he’ll ask us a question and we'll try to gage what he's looking for and answer it, but there are some questions he asks us that are just too difficult for us to explain so we tell him that we have to think about it before we can answer.


The Clock: What is one thing you think you've learned that you think your friends haven't learned?

Little Dom: That everyone can be friends.

The Clock: What's your favorite memory of seeing Dom interact with students on campus?

Domenica: One of my favorite memories is when he learned how to walk. He used to walk in the apartment a lot but he would get scared to walk outside of our apartment. I think because he was ten months old, you know, and everyone else was ginormo and walking fast. And so the students were joking one day, we don’t think he can walk, we think you're making it up, and they were waving a phone in front of him, and he had a pencil in one hand and walked over to get the phone in his other hand, so for a good solid week every time they wanted him to walk, they would just bribe him with their phones.

The Clock: Do you think that he has a different view of the world now?

Domenica: Oh yeah. When he sees someone with a piercing or a tattoo, he understands that's body art, or some of his friends might be a little bit hesitant with a student that has a nose piercing. He understands the concept of gay or lesbianism, whereas some of his peers don't understand that two men or two women can be partners. He understands a lot of inclusion, and it's funny because I've asked him before what inclusion means to him and he's like, it's not about putting something out there that you think everyone will like, or that's not offensive, it’s about embracing and making way for. He also doesn't really understand gender in the same way as his peers, because he doesn't really see things as girl jobs and boy jobs, he just sees jobs. I actually don't know what it will be like for him when we move off campus, because he's so accustomed to it all. People are always like, how do you balance working full time and having time with your child? And it's because we work together as a family. This is not a job, this is like a way of life.

The Clock: What do you worry the most about being his mother?

Domenica: He has this awesome outlook on life, and I just hope that with some of the stuff that's happening in the world, that it never jades him to the
point where he's no longer this super energetic, happy and social kid. I worry what our world is going to be like in ten years.

The Clock: What's the most important thing you want to tell students?

Little Dom: The important thing that I want to tell students is to be kind to students, then you'll make lots and lots of friends, and you'll also be friends with me.

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