Avelynn Reynolds breaks record for youngest college student

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Staff Writer


Avelynn Reynolds, 17-month old, started coming to IU South Bend at just two months old. She is the daughter of students Ivy Browning and Payton Reynolds.

Anyone who attends IU South Bend or spends time here has probably noticed the couple who is always on campus with their baby. They have caught the attention of several students and faculty members.

Payton was playing football at Ohio Wesleyan the first year of his college career. He decided to come back home for his now fiancée and their baby. Since Fall 2017, Payton and Ivy have been going to school at IU South Bend as parents. They began online, and then moved to on campus courses.

A huge factor in choosing IU South Bend for their education was that the campus had a childcare center. Unfortunately, right around the time Ivy had Avelynn and began coming to school, the center closed. This resulted in Payton and Ivy making some major schedule adjustments to be able to bring their 2-month-old to school with them.

They do this by alternating class times. Payton will be in class while Ivy has Avelynn and vice versa. Avelynn has done alright with the schedule according to her parents because it is what she has been doing for most of her life. They, however, noted spending hours just trying to plan their schedules each semester.

“Every semester is a challenge. There will be a class that is required for him and a class required for me that overlap so we have to change classes, put them off, and hope that it works during a later semester. It’s hard because we’re on campus from 8 or 9 in the morning until 6. That’s a long time for a baby to be on campus. It’s very difficult sometimes,” Browning explained.

They explained that they chose this route versus daycare or other childcare because of cost and general anxiety of being away from her and trusting another individual with their daughter.

“I suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety, so I don’t really trust her with anybody besides myself. It scares me to think that something could happen and I’m not there,” Browning stated.

Additionally, during her first few months of life, Avelynn was nursing every hour. Ivy described having to excuse herself from classes to nurse. At this point, it was not feasible to have Avelynn away from them.

Though there are obvious benefits to this schedule, they have also faced numerous challenges. When asked about what would make being parents on campus easier, a few suggestions immediately came to mind.

“A place to study for people who are more welcoming to students with kids. Everywhere we go, we get negative looks, it seems frowned upon to bring her in. The fourth floor of the library has been the only place where people are welcoming but even up there, there are some people who give us looks and it gets very old,” explained Reynolds. “We don’t like bothering people. We realize that she’s a baby and she can be loud. We don’t want to be rude, we want people to be able to get their work done and be respectful. If she yells or cries, we drop what we are doing and take her outside or go to a separate part of a building just so people won’t be bothered by it. Some people don’t understand having a kid so early, but we’re trying to make the best future for her,” Reynolds added.

There has been a push to bring the childcare center back, which Payton and Ivy explained would help them tremendously.

“We would definitely take advantage of that if it were available. We could come to campus and both be in class at the same time. We would be on campus half the time that we are here now,” Browning explained.

“We could become more comfortable being away from her if she’s on campus with us and we know if she needs anything we are still close enough to be available to her at all times,” Reynolds added.

“Even if we can’t have a childcare center, having a room with toys where we can go in and study while she plays with toys, I would be completely satisfied with that,” Browning added.

Despite all of the challenges, Payton and Ivy have noted that there are people who have been supportive and interactions that help them to continue doing what they’re doing.

“Professors are really supportive. Dr. K, the director of the honors program, was awesome, she lifted us up and ensured us that we can do this, that it was going to be hard but we can do it. We have a lot of classmates that ask how we do it and random people on campus who can’t believe we are on campus and going to school. There was one girl who came up to us and said she was just thinking of dropping out of school but seeing us changed her mind. A separate time, Avelynn and I were talking back and forth and this guy in Starbucks said ‘that it was just the amount of cuteness he needed to get through his day,” Browning explained.

Firestein, K - Avelynn
The Browning-Reynolds family pictured at IU South Bend. PHOTO BY/Katelyn Firestein

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