Transitioning to college can be a scary time. It can leave students feeling homesick or lonely, especially in the first year. The Ask a Mom group wants to encourage students, create a space to come talk about anything they want and even grab a good old-fashioned mom hug.
The Ask a Mom group was originally started at a university in Florida and has since expanded to campuses in Boston, Georgia, Colorado Springs and here at Carolina. At its very core, Ask a Mom is a group of moms that come to campus every Monday and stand in the clapping circle outside of Russell House. They give out homemade cookies and life advice to any students who may want them.
Barbara Tiller, the team coordinator for USC’s Ask a Mom group, said it strives to create a safe environment for students.
“It’s a safe environment for them to talk about life issues and to be loved on,” Tiller said. “We try to give homemade cookies, we give mom hugs for those who want a mom hug. It’s just a place for — to come ask questions or to talk about more serious things. So, we’ve experienced all of that.”
Tiller said the moms have had questions ranging from relationship advice to how to cook and how to do laundry.
Sydney Houck, second-year mechanical engineering student, said it is valuable to be able to get a different perspective from women who have more life experience beyond college.
“They’re so kind and willing to help and listen and really be there for students,” Houck said. “I think that they make a huge difference for a lot of students.”
The moms really want to know students personally, Houck said.
“In my experience, I did go and visit them every week, but beyond that even, they got my phone number,” Houck said. “Every now and then, they’ll check in and see how I’m doing, and they really want to be able to know students more than just saying, 'Hi.'”
Tiller, and Ask a Mom, said they recognize there is more of a challenge now with mental health. Although the moms are not mental health professionals, they do go through mental health training to be better equipped to engage with students, according to an email from Tiller.
Caroline Guynn, fourth-year nursing student, came upon the group after losing her wallet.
“I lost my wallet, and I was like, 'Oh, perfect, moms.’ And, you know, after that I went and saw them every week,” Guynn said.
Guynn said Ask a Mom followed her through every life event she had in college.
“Every Monday, every quiz, every test," Guynn said. "They really were my weekly dose of peace and encouragement during some really confusing times so, you know. It was just — they were huge."
Guynn said she thinks Ask a Mom is important for all students because it helps support students in their daily lives. Ask a Mom not only offers cookies, but it offers prayers, support, hugs and motivation, Guynn said.
“They give you their own experience and their wisdom, and just like, pep talks if you need it,” Guynn said. “They also connect other students, which I think is really fun. So, I’ve met a couple of people through the moms.”
Tiller said she wants every student to know one thing: They matter.
“Everyone matters, and everyone has a purpose,” Tiller said. "It matters that you’re here."
Even though Ask a Mom couldn’t be on campus this year because of COVID-19, Tiller said it hopes to return in the fall of 2021, pending university approval.
In the meantime, the group has made an Ask a Mom Instagram page, which is full of fun tips and a daily Ask a Mom reminder that you are important and loved.