Ann Marie always yearned for a college degree, but she had to put her dream on hold. She is a 25-year-old mother who works to support her two-year-old and seven-year-old step-daughter, while their dad has been deployed overseas. And in addition to caring for her own family, she also serves as power of attorney for her best friend's young daughter while both parents serve in Iraq.
"With my former husband being deployed on and off over the past two years, I've had to double up and be Mommy and Daddy all alone. School couldn't be a factor when I was alone to raise my family," said Ann Marie in her Project Working Mom essay.
However, Ann Marie's greatest wish was granted when she recently applied for, and won, a Project Working Mom scholarship to attend an online college for free. Although she currently works at a retail store as a part-time manager, she longs for a steady career, especially with today's economic woes. Without a college degree, Ann Marie fears she is being passed over for positions for which she would otherwise be qualified; she fears she is simply not competitive in the job market.
Thanks to the Project Working Mom scholarship, Ann Marie will now get her degree in accounting from Everest University at no cost to her. Online classes grant her the flexibility to attend school from home at any time of day, which frees her from childcare worries. She is home for her children when they need her, and she is now serving as a role model for her children.
"My goal is to do my best so that my daughter can see that if Mommy can do well in school, so can she," continued Ann Marie.
Ann Marie's story represents just one of 93 Project Working Mom scholarship recipient stories from across the country. Each recipient is a powerful example of sacrifice and determination as women seek to provide a better life for themselves and their children through education.
Following two successful Project Working Mom outreach campaigns that awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to nearly 100 recipients, Project Working Mom rolled out a third campaign on January 8, 2009, which will wrap up on April 30, 2009. This round of the program introduced a new twist: Fathers are now eligible to win a scholarship, a request logged quite frequently during the previous campaigns. The participating schools for Project Working Mom.and Dads, Too! are Ashford University, Capella University, Everest University, Virginia College, and Ashworth College.
"We launched Project Working Mom as a response to staggering statistics indicating that working moms are an underserved population that simply need to overcome the obstacles of time, money and confidence to achieve the education they need to improve their lives," said Helen MacDermott, content director for Project Working Mom. "But in today's economy, we realize there are plenty of dads who are also in desperate need of financial aid and deserve a chance to tell their stories, too."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, of the 2.1 million single dads in the United States only 16 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher. Although the total number of single moms in the United States is much larger, the percentage of moms with a bachelor's degree is about the same; only 15 percent of single moms have a bachelor's degree or higher.
According to the federal government, the number of students applying for student aid is soaring. In the first six months of 2008, the total number of Free Applications for Federal Student Aid submitted was about 1.3 million more than the same period in 2007. Project Working Mom has also witnessed this tremendous demand for financial aid. The first two campaigns in 2008 generated more than 120,000 applications for a full-ride online college scholarship.
eLearners.com, an online education resource that connects learners with online education, which created the Project Working Mom campaigns, also created a complementary, interactive, and in-depth web site to help learners tackle their questions and fears about returning to school. The site is designed to empower working parents and it offers: advice on going back to school; self-assessment quizzes on numerous subjects, including how to determine what subjects to study; an online support community; numerous articles; and a database with $15 billion in financial aid opportunities.
Project Working Mom.and Dads, Too! helps to remove the barriers many people face when deciding whether to go back to school, including the hurdles of money, time, and confidence. The scholarships provided by the participating schools allow the recipients to go back to school at no cost, eliminating the huge financial aid burden. By studying online, students can do classwork from home, during their lunch hour at work, and at any time of day. The flexibility of online classes fits perfectly with the lives of busy parents. And through the comprehensive Project Working Mom web site, working parents can get the knowledge they need to feel confident about returning to school.
"I don't have a lot of family members that have gone to school and certainly none that have received scholarships. To my family and me, this is better than winning the lottery," continued Ann Marie. "This is my time to finish all the way to the end."
Moms and dads, to learn more about Project Working Mom.and Dads, Too! and to apply for a full-ride, online education scholarship visit www.ProjectWorkingMom.com.