By Tim Eberly
Joe and Glenda Stickel admit they're homebodies, so they don't mind the rules.
No loud music. No firearms. Quiet time runs from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Don't do laundry after 9 p.m.
The restrictions make the student family housing area tucked into the eastern corner of Montana State University-Northern one of the most tranquil spots on campus.
The Stickels moved into a one-bedroom apartment in the complex in August 2000, seven months before their son, Frederick, was born. Both are 20 years old and carrying the responsibilities of a couple 10 years their senior.
Since Frederick came into their lives, Glenda has not taken classes at MSU-N, rather settling into the life of a stay-at-home mom. Joe, meanwhile, works full time and takes a full plate of classes at MSU-N, where he is a junior electronic engineering technology major. He manages the Game Point arcade in the Holiday Village Shopping Center.
"It's like a teamwork situation," Joe said of the couple's differing schedules. "You can rely on each other to get something accomplished. It's like four hands on one object rather than two. It takes a lot of the pressure off."
Glenda's younger sister, 19-year-old Joann Swope, also lives in the complex, which includes 45 housing units 19 two-bedroom apartments and 26 one-bedroom residences. While Swope attends classes, Glenda baby-sits her son, Jarod, who is two months older than Fred.
"I think she feels better about dropping Jarod off with me than she would at day care," Glenda said. "It's been nice having two boys the same age being able to play."
Most of the residents of the family housing facility, which is filled to capacity for the first time in about eight years, are juggling similar responsibilities employment, children and school.
"We want to do what we can to make them succeed in college," said Bill Lanier, director of student life at MSU-N. "Some people may thrive as well off-campus. But there are things we can offer there that other places can't."
To qualify for housing, an applicant must take at least seven credits in each semester. During the summer, a resident is not required to take classes.
Included in the cost of rent $265 for one-bedroom apartments and $300 for two-bedroom domains are their heat, electricity and water bills. Residents are provided assigned parking spots. An infant care center facility is on the grounds, along with a basketball court, two playgrounds and a laundry facility.
A maintenance crew from MSU-N's physical plant, including a painter, plumber, two carpenters and a handyman, provides the families with service for their apartments.
Public school buses also include the housing area in their pickup route.
Camaraderie is included in the cost too. "The students up there get to know one another," Lanier said. "Their kids get to know one another. It's a closer group."
MSU-N has offered the student family housing since the late 1950s. The average age of residents, Lanier said, is about 30. Most are single parents male and female.
"It's kind of nice to be next door to people in the same boat as you," Lanier said. "They have the built-in support of other people around them."
Each year, a resident acts as the manager of the facility, in exchange for a rent-free apartment. Since June, when Carissa and Don Tielking took over the job, a monthly student family newsletter has been distributed to the residents, and an Internet Web site www.msunsfh.com has been created.
"We're trying to do what we can to improve the communication here," Carissa Tielking, 24, said. "The Internet and newsletter are our mass media. It's just a way we can hit everybody at once so everybody's getting the same information."
Carissa also manages a few rentals in Hill County owned by her mother, Marci Bergren, who lives in California. So when the opportunity to manage the facility presented itself, she felt it was in her range of expertise.
"I had the experience with that, so I knew how to deal with tenants," Carissa, a junior business technology major, said. "We felt we could do the job."
Don, a junior industrial technology major, and Carissa have two children: 6-year-old Jameson and Cascidy, 3. She is also five months pregnant with their third child.
Each resident of the complex is a member of the student family association, which organized a barbecue last summer and a Halloween party.
The association has designs to revamp one of the playgrounds, which will cost an estimated $20,000. The Soroptimists are helping to pay for the project. Last fall, the MSU-N football players assisted the association's endeavors, digging up the existing equipment a swing set, jungle gym and sandbox from the ground.
In the summer, MSU-N provides a storage contract for residents who want to live elsewhere until school resumes. For $75 a month, they can keep personal belongings in their apartments.
Two apartments are not occupied. One is set aside for prospective students visiting the campus, while another is equipped for a handicapped person.
A handful of international students, who do not have families, call the housing facility home. Two are from China, and another is from South Africa. Though the facility is predominantly for families, others with extenuating circumstances are welcome.
"They're here year-round," Lanier said, "so it's kind of hard for them to live in residence halls."
Joe and Glenda met in the summer after their 1999 high school graduations, while working together in Lake County. They grew up a half-hour apart; Joe attended Hot Springs High when Glenda was at Polson High.
He came to MSU-N that fall, but Glenda stayed at home. She had plans to enlist in the Air Force, but decided against it and joined Joe in Havre.
Between classes, Joe darts home to spend time with Glenda and Fred, and he also utilizes that time to get his homework done. "I try to get it done so I don't have to think about it on the weekends," he said.
Glenda is considering enrolling in a summer class, and may change her major from accounting to education. But right now, Fred is all the education she has time for.
"I don't realize how much work it would be," Glenda said of child-rearing. "It's pretty rewarding."
Neither seems to know where they will be in a few years. Joe's father and sister may come to Havre to attend MSU-N, and if that happens, it could extend their stay in Havre. But for now, they're in the ideal situation.
"If you're living on campus, it's just about the best place to live," Joe said.
In August, MSU-N is hiking the rent in student family housing by $25 the first rent increase since the fall of 1995. Lanier isn't worried about losing renters, though. He already has six new applications for next year.