Perdue sees model for babysitting go nationalBy Abigail Gwarjanski | 03/25/2015 11:55pm
Cori Perdue helped create The University of Alabama’s Sitters For Service, America’s first organization to provide free babysitting services to student-parents. Photo Courtesy of Cori Perdue
The experience revealed to Perdue that few programs supported student-parents. Almost 13 years later, she is giving these parents a chance to succeed. Perdue helped create The University of Alabama’s Sitters For Service, America’s first organization to provide free babysitting services to student-parents.
“Our primary goal is to help support student-parents and help sitters who want to be grounded back into a family setting,” Perdue said. “We provide sanity to the parents and a richer college experience to the sitters.”
Perdue received her degree in May 1997, but wanted to further her education. Over that summer, she worked to save money for graduate school while traveling across the country. Perdue ended the long year by moving in with her older sister in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Knowing that The University of Alabama had a renowned English Renaissance literature program, Perdue enrolled in graduate school. During her time as a graduate assistant, Perdue was asked to start a program for student-parents. She teamed up with colleague Jason Doblin to create a program providing free babysitting services to student-parents. They sought out other universities that they could build their program off, but could only find a few Ivy League colleges that charged $18 an hour.
Perdue and Doblin began constructing a detailed proposal with UA’s Legal Council. They met with Risk Management, presented the proposal to the vice president of student affairs and the dean of the Graduate School and met with multiple lawyers.
“It was uncharted waters because no one else has ever done it,” Perdue said. “It is hard to start something brand new, and so we tried to sell it as we want to be the trendsetters. We want to be the groundbreakers.”
In spring of 2010, they tested a pilot program that consisted of six sitters and six families. It was a hit, and the program has been prosperous since. Sitters For Service now has 42 sitters and 47 parents. In 2014, Sitters For Service won an American Council on Education Leadership Award, a national award given to programs that advance women’s education.
“I am always flattered when universities contact me and say they want to start a program and model it after ours,” Perdue said. “I have so many parents who tell me they would have dropped out if they didn’t have Sitters For Service. When I hear these things, I am reaffirmed that this is making a difference.”
Mary Lou Culpepper, an intern for Sitters For Service, says Perdue constantly strives to help the vulnerable population of student-parents at the University.
“Cori is empowering these student parents and helping them graduate and reach their goals,” Culpepper said.
Along with her work for the graduate school, Perdue teaches 17th century British poetry twice a week. She and her husband, Josh, have four children: Elijah, 11, Noah, 9, Luke, 7, and Lily, 2.
Perdue said she has confidence in how she balances all of her activities.
“Hard work and passion. I have a good support system and a lot of help,” she said. “I work in an environment where they accept new ideas, and I am driven to try to help student-parents. Thankfully my kids understand and appreciate the work I do and how it is making a difference. They have told me that they are proud of me. I had no plans to move to Alabama. Everything just moved in that direction, and next thing you know, I have a doctorate, I’m married, I have four kids, and I love it.”