When I met with Jackie I was amazed and impressed with her sacrificial attitude and her humility. She’s been taking care of others most of her life. When Jackie was twelve-years-old, her mother died. She had watched her mom cook and take care of the house and she wanted to help her father so Jackie took on the household responsibilities. She became the lady of the house while her father worked. She qualified for a program at Woodrow Wilson that allowed her to tutor other students. She even walked to Franklin Elementary where she assisted students who needed a little assistance. Then she walked back to Woodrow Wilson to meet her brother and they walked to Franklin to get their younger siblings after school.
Later her desire to be a social worker led her to attend Lamar University. She went when she could afford it. Against the odds she managed to earn sixty-hours towards a degree, but had to stop in 2010 due to lack of funds to cover the expenses. Sociology is her choice of study because she has had many life experiences when a social worker would’ve helped. And she can relate to others, as they will be able to relate to her.
We think it’s her turn to receive some assistance. She is the first candidate for the Educational Support Program, an initiative of The Community Coalition, a nonprofit formed in 2015.
Jackie is a mother of five and grandmother of four who gets by with very little income. Four of her five children still live at home and she is the legal guardian of a young grandson. It would be impossible for her to complete the degree without assistance. Jackie’s can-do spirit shows when she says, “I’m determined to go to school now more than ever because I am stronger in mind, body and spirit.” She exemplifies the single mothers that the Educational Support Program chooses to support while they work on a degree, usually an associate’s degree, for two years.
I have great admiration and respect for Jackie. I returned to college three times as a single mother and as an “older” student. (They considered anyone over twenty-three an older student.) As a result, each time I was better equipped to contribute in my field of work. In Jackie’s case she wants to complete her degree in sociology so that she can give back to her community. She is already looking into possible job opportunities. The degree has a practical end—a position as a Social Worker. And our area will benefit from her contribution. The example she will leave with her children is like ripples in the water. They, too, will be influenced by her perseverance.
Bridges of Hope Educational Support Program will make it possible for Jackie to complete her degree. This program supports a single mother for two years as long as she meets certain requirements. Single moms are carefully screened prior to acceptance. Participants receive: Financial Assistance, Life Coaching, Budget Guidance, Health and Wellness workshops, Spiritual Encouragement and Life Skills training. Other programs like this have proven successful and we look forward to the long-term “interests” our investment will pay. This is an empowerment, not an entitlement program. Our goal is to bring single moms across the bridge from dependency to independence and self-sufficiency. Together we will give single mothers a hand-up so they can graduate to a better life.
Gail Cawley Showalter
Founder of SMORE for Women
Director of Education Support Program for Single Moms
Relationships, partnerships, transformation, and empowerment
Bridges of Hope is part of the AmeriCorps network of programs