The Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas
Stephanie Harlan is a single mom with two boys. She is currently attending the University of Arkansas, studying nursing and holds a near-perfect GPA. She is receiving financial support from the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas.
In Stephanie's own words:
In life the only way to thoroughly succeed is to get the best and highest education you can. I am showing my children, right now, that education is the key to getting where you want to be in life.
After I graduate I plan to buy my first house. My children are so excited to finally have our own space!
Thank you, thank you, thank you. This scholarship has been the linchpin in keeping my head above financial water while in school. The support each donor gives means so much to parents like me. It touches my heart that so many people and businesses in the community genuinely care and support this endeavor. I am blessed to have been able to receive this amazing scholarship, and it is all because of the supporters' continuous belief that we can make a difference in our children's and our lives.
Stephanie isn't the only one benefitting from the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas (SPSF NWA). This year, the organization plans to award $350,000 in scholarship money to 135 single-parent families who live in Washington, Madison and Carroll counties - Benton County is a separately-run program and both are part of a network of affiliates that serves every county in Arkansas. The beauty of this organization is not only the financial help it provides for low-income parents, but also the respect and professionalism with which they are treated.
A Professional and Dignified Process
Parents begin by completing several required online applications, showing they are enrolled in school and in need of additional financial help. Once online paperwork is reviewed, applicants are invited to interview in front of the scholarship review committee, which is made up of SPSF NWA Community Leadership Council Members. The review committee carefully assesses the applicant's school, grades, academic history, support system and graduation plan.
A lot of the parents who qualify for scholarship are already receiving school financial aid to cover tuition and books. The money given by SPSF NWA, however, is given directly in hand to moms and dads. Part-time students receive $1,000 per semester, while full-time students receive $2,000 per semester. A full-time student year round can receive up to $6,000 a year. "Our recipients are pursuing higher education to advance out of poverty." SPSF NWA Development Director Joy Morris says. "We want them to have a strong financial support system so they're more likely to be able to focus on their studies and be successful." Recipients can use the money to cover their most pressing needs; whether they choose to use it for rent, utilities, child care or transportation, it is up to their discretion.
SPSF NWA focuses on an empowerment model. Recipients are expected to keep their grades up and reapply every semester for scholarship. Each semester, they come in for a 15-minute interview with members of the community leadership council. Parents discuss their plans and are asked if they need any additional help. It's an additional opportunity for the council to give more resources, as well as encourage and congratulate them for making the decision to pursue higher learning. The system also builds confidence in interviewing skills. By the time they graduate, they've already had practice toward interviewing for a job.
In addition to financial support, SPSF NWA provides family activities and professional development. It partners with other community groups to provide opportunities for personal growth and family recreation that its students may otherwise not be able to afford.
SPSF NWA also serves as a source for career guidance. During interviews, the community leadership council is able to go over career choices with each student. For some, this means discussing the possibilities of trade jobs through certification programs; for others it's high-demand careers in STEM fields.
Mentoring is available through the PRO Program, which partners experienced professionals in the community with current scholarship recipients. Additionally, Career Exploration Days have taken place at large regional companies, such as Tyson Foods and Washington Regional Medical Center, where recipients get to talk with human resource representatives about positions available. They are able to receive advice and build connections for when they graduate.
For many years, SPSF NWA has benefitted from a grant by the Walton Family Foundation which completely covers administrative costs. Therefore, donations from individuals and sponsors go directly to support scholarships and supportive programs. In addition to individual donors and corporate sponsors, the organization receives some foundation/grant support as well. The organization recently completed the Pathway to Prosperity Campaign - which raised $3 Million for endowment. Moving forward, the organization will fund one-third of its annual scholarship budget from the income earned from endowment, leaving two-thirds to raise through annual fundraising, and placing the organization in a strong, sustainable position for the future, Some people like to create an endowment in the name of someone they loved and lost or in the name of their business. "We have loyal givers," Morris notes. "We are always working to secure more funding to keep up with the growing need."
How you can Help
- Donate to Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas by visiting the donate page.
- Volunteer to serve on the Community Leadership Council, Student Support Committee, PRO Program or Team Building events.
- Sponsor events that support the mission and raise awareness for the scholarship fund. See the sponsor page.
- Spread the word. You may know someone who could benefit from or help the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas. Share this information on Facebook by clicking the blue "Share" icon at the beginning of this article.
If you live in Washington, Madison or Carroll County and are interested in attaining a scholarship, you can visit http://www.spsfnwa.org, call 479-935-4888 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Benton County is a separately-run single-parent scholarship fund. Click here for more information.