Extra Support: The Milken Scholars Parents Group

Published 05/11/2021 in Alumni Features
Written by Glenda Aldana Madrid, Stephanie Cabrera Esenwa, Ana Pavich, Bonny Taing Ward, Judit Tejada, Monica Trujillo-Jamison | 05/11/2021

Last year, a few Milken Scholar Alumni took the initiative to provide even more support to the Milken Scholars Family: they formed the Milken Scholars Parents Group.

Milken Scholars join an extensive network that helps each other during college and beyond, through many stages of professional life and in this case, family life.  Last year, a few Milken Scholar Alumni took the initiative to provide even more support to the Milken Scholars Family: they formed the Milken Scholars Parents Group. Read the interview below to learn more about this wonderful initiative.    

During the 2020 Milken Scholars Summit Sunshine Ward, MS ’04, broached the possibility of a Milken Scholar discussion group for those Scholars who were young parents, and Ana Pavich, MS ‘89, Marcela Correa, MS ‘96, and Glenda Aldana Madrid, MS ‘03, began to organize.  Together with Sunshine, they drafted an email to share on the Milken Scholars Listserv and after some communications, the Milken Scholars Parents Group was formed. 

We asked several members about their thoughts on the group, its goals, and its future.

What need did you envision the Milken Scholars Parents Group fulfilling?

Group: We each came to the table with different needs.

 Ana Pavich, MS ’89: I specifically wanted to find other scholars with children in the same age range as mine and older to help me navigate current developmental milestones. Additionally, I was looking for a peer group of professionals who were navigating the same challenging and difficult choices of remaining in the workforce, taking a career time-out, or trying to find a productive way forward that did not compromise personal growth and needs with the needs of my children and my family.

Glenda Aldana Madrid, MS ‘03: Motherhood has been such an unexpectedly transformative journey for me that I found myself really needing a group of like-minded women with whom to discuss and dissect it all. Few of my close friends have children—fewer even have children around my daughter’s age—and to find a group of women with similar drive/family stories/background—women whom I already admired and looked up to—who were also going through this journey and were willing to talk about all its beauty, turmoil, and challenges—well, it was a godsend. I’m focused on women because we have yet to have a dad join the group, but that’s not to say they’re not welcome! The focus isn’t really on motherhood per se; it just comes up. I was motivated to join because I wanted parenting advice and because I wanted a space to have these deep conversations about identity, future goals, and aspirations.

How active is the group?  Are there regular meetings, discussions, or activities?

Group: We meet twice per month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays, at 2pm Eastern. We've discussed topics as varied as raising grateful kids, to talking to our kids about current events, to self-care, to letting go of the guilt, to reinventing your professional self after having kids. More recently, we spent one of our meetings discussing and problem-solving re-entry into full-time work after a gap in employment.

What are some of the goals you have discussed?

Group: Given our background as, for the most part, first-generation college graduates and U.S. citizens who are usually the first in our families to acquire certain resources, we realized a lot of us don’t have information on things such as creating trusts, establishing 529's (educational accounts), ensuring there are powers of attorney in place (particularly for college-aged children), thinking about our digital footprints and non-financial assets, etc. Consequently, one of our more recent goals is to organize some of this information for ourselves and other Scholar parents. Quote3

We have also recently discussed changing the meeting schedule, moving one of the two monthly meetings to a weekend day to enable parents who have a less flexible workday to participate.

We are also considering a more informal online gathering, perhaps quarterly, to help Scholars with children meet one another and connect.

What are some of the benefits of the group relative to its scale?  For example, how can a simple thread about certain parenting advice be worthwhile? 

Group: One of the amazing things about some of our discussions is how similar our journeys are. Our stories are familiar: immigrants; the first to graduate from college in our families; the ones navigating a career and parenthood without an extended family network; the ones respecting our cultural traditions yet trying to do things differently; the "only one like us" in our workplace or children's schools, becoming responsible for explaining social justice.

It is empowering to be heard, recognized and supported: that self-care and emotional health are critical; that work-life balance is a fiction; that we are taking care of our children as we help our parents.

Monica Trujillo-Jamison, MS ‘02: Especially during the pandemic, for many of us, the challenges of parenting intensified while still juggling other personal and professional commitments. Having regular meetings with other Milken Scholar parents who are facing similar challenges has helped “lessen the load” by feeling less isolated and more supported.

Judit Tejada, MS ‘92: Honestly, it feels like going to therapy in listening to how we are struggling to achieve our goals, parent well and survive the pandemic.

What would you like Scholar parents who are not involved to know about the group?

Group: There is a tendency for Scholars to socialize by Scholar year, by geographic area or by career interest.  What this parents' group does is allow Scholars to break pre-established relational shortcuts and create new ones where we can meet Scholars from other years, regions, and careers, as we travel the challenging path that is parenting.

Stephanie Cabrera Esenwa, MS ‘02: Our participation in this support group has allowed us as members to continue conversations with each other outside of group time, forging friendships and professional connections, which has been an extra benefit. Whether discussing favorite television shows or business ideas, we have managed to translate the bonding that happens at Milken events into a virtual environment and carry it over into our personal and professional lives on a regular basis. Additionally, the parenting advice is unique because of the diversity of the group really allows us to look at issues from a range of perspectives.

Sunshine Ward, MS ‘04: I read all the emails, have purchased and love many of the recommended books, etc.  All of it is sound advice from people whose opinions and values I respect and trust. It also means I can significantly cut down on all the product research that I do, LOL.

How involved are other family members, who are not Scholars, in the group, if at all.

Group: While our partners and/or spouses are aware we participate in this group, we have not yet incorporated them into any activities. We are considering quarterly virtual happy hours where spouses or Milken Scholar co-parents can attend.

Sunshine Ward, MS ‘04: I debrief him on some of the topics we discuss, which becomes food for thought for both of us, and he feels like he is able to participate vicariously.

Judit Tejada, MS ‘92: My daughter seems to know that Mom feels better after she has participated in a Milken Scholars zoom event including the parents group.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

Group: We are an open group who would welcome participation from all Scholars.  This is not about things we can find out from other parents at the playground; this is finding peers in our extended Scholars family that can help us navigate this journey.

Judit Tejada, MS ‘92: My hope is that the parents group lasts long enough to help me navigate my daughter’s journey to college. I suspect it is going to be easier for my daughter but having the support of other Milken Scholar parents will be important for me – the Scholars will be able to relate to the contrast of our college experience to that of our next generation.


Thank you so much for sharing!