CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Giving moms the chance to pursue higher education by helping them go back to school.
It’s called ANSWER and the organization provides mothers with college scholarships and in turn, hopes to positively impact not only Moms but their children, too.
Susan Anderson, of Charlotte, started ANSWER back in 2006 making good on a promise she made to herself years ago.
“As a young college graduate, I made a vow that one day I wanted to pay it forward,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to go to college from the time I was a little girl. But when it came time to go [to college] there was no money.”
Anderson says a scholarship made it possible for her to go to UNC Charlotte and earn her college degree. She didn’t want the same hardship to keep other women from getting an education and she chose to focus on moms because the impact would be two-fold.
“So my heart was to really to help the mom,” she said. “And when the mom is sitting around doing her homework, her children are watching and so you're effectively impacting two generations at a time. I just believe very strongly when you educate a mom you will educate her children.”
And she says Elizabeth Bradley, a single mom of two from Clover, SC, is the embodiment of her dream from so long ago. “Elizabeth is walking proof of my dream,” she said. “Everything I ever thought of - and then some.”
Bradley doesn't dwell on the difficulties of juggling two jobs, going to school full-time and raising two children on her own.
“It’s tough but you don’t give yourself the option to give up. You know, you don’t say, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ You just say, 'alright tomorrow, this is my schedule and I’m gonna try to squeeze that assignment in. I’m gonna try to do this by that due date.’ And you just - you just do it, you know."
It's that can-do attitude no matter her circumstances that helped the South Carolina mom overcome a tough childhood of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
“We ended up in a homeless shelter, um, a battered women’s shelter; motels there for a little while,” she recalled. “And at some point, I decided to move out you know that wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to live so I moved out when I was 16. Because of some things that I had suffered, you know some abuse that I had went through; I wanted to make a difference in other children’s lives. So, I knew that in order to do that -- I needed an education.”
She went back to school and got her associate's degree. But a professor saw the potential for more and encouraged her to apply to the ANSWER Scholarship program. It offers scholarships for moms with school-aged children who want to go to school full-time.
"She told me that I needed to be hungry because she saw a lot more potential in me,” said Bradley. “And that really opened up what I felt like I could do with my life. And that small box of dreams became the world, you know."
But, ANSWER is much more than just a scholarship program, she says. Its Mentors for Mom program, pairs each scholar - as they’re called - with a mentor who provides support and guidance. It’s that part of the program that has been most impactful for Bradley.
“When you're speaking life into a woman who doesn't believe in herself and she begins to believe in herself,” she said. “And then that person starts speaking life into this person. So everything Susan's done has just culminated into this snowball effect of positivity in our community.”
That snowball effect culminated last Saturday when Elizabeth graduated from Montreat College. And, now it's her turn to finally do what was her plan all along.
“Someday I wanted to turn around and be that person who was speaking life into me. I wanted to speak life into the next woman. I wanted to encourage her to realize her dreams. And that it can be done. Because working and taking care of children and going to school, does seem impossible -- but it really is possible.”
ANSWER is accepting applications for it’s next class of scholars until March 1, 2019. Moms of school-aged children who are in school full-time are eligible to apply. You can be single or married – but preference is given to single moms.
To apply, go to answerscholarship.org and the link to the application is right on the homepage.