One woman is pursuing a doctorate degree. One is a banker. One is a local nurse. One is teaching.
These women represent only a tiny percentage of people who have prospered in the past 21 years through the Single Parent Scholarship program in Faulkner County. The program’s blueprint has played a significant, if not unique, role in the lives of many, offering a perspective on human progress and assisting needy people who have moved on to achieve considerable and undeniable success.
Program participants traveled through a daunting schedule of study and parenting, while displaying an indomitable spirit to make a go of their lives and the lives of their offspring. Some, of course, have fallen by the wayside, finding schooling and parenting too dispiriting.
One scholarship recipient juggled an assignment of music and mathematics, working through a 20-hour curriculum and graduating from college with high honors. The woman’s feat demonstrated a steadfast spirit exhibited by many in the program, and she is now pursing lofty goals in mathematics.
The scholarship effort has touched women primarily, although the male population has been involved at times. The program has provided thousands of dollars to elevate the fortunes of people who
sought educational opportunities but lacked the resources.
The program was launched in 1993 with two scholarships worth $1,000. Now, the program provides 366 scholarships valued at $207,163.
The success of the program is reflected in the numbers: 92 percent of all students receiving scholarships either graduated or continued their schooling.
Marilyn Battles, a banking official in Greenbrier, said another way to gauge the program’s success is by recalling that the program’s foundation was built with grants from the Harvey and Bernice Jones, Tyson and Walton Family foundations. A statewide board of directors, with 21 members and led by Hillary Clinton, established policy for the program
"The principle was based on expectations of helping single parents get off welfare roles and improve their living conditions," Battles said. "If we could help them further their education, they stood a better chance of obtaining employment and easing the burden of parenting while living a better life."
Battles recalls working with Sherman Peterson, who was director of the Arkansas Adult Education Center in Conway. Battles said he played a significant role in developing the program in its infancy.
"I was very excited at the possibility of generating matching funds for single parents who qualified," Battles said.
Board members determined that recipients of the needs-based scholarships must meet several qualifications.
"They could use the grants, after their tuition was paid, for childcare, vehicle purchases and expenses, housing, books and other needs," Battles said. .
Ralph Nesson, the program’s executive director, said matching funds obtained since the program’s beginning total $80,185.
Scholarships were awarded to 49 applicants in 2011. A full-time student could receive up to $750 per semester. Part-time and summer session students received up to $375.
Funds for the program come from many sources, indicating that it resonates well with major Arkansas foundations and diverse givers like Toad Suck Daze Committee scholarship monies. Help also comes from board members who have given liberally trough the years. Some board members are former scholarship recipients.
Trinina Pouncy, who teaches alternative students at Carl Stuart Middle School in Conway, echoes the sentiments of many scholarship recipients.
"They helped me greatly so I am very appreciative of the program," Pouncy said. "When I needed support, they were there to help me and I will never forget it."