Helping the dedicated: Scholarship for single parents

Amanda Lewark, a Weber State University student, does homework with her son. Lewark is a single parent and student.

When Weber State University graduate Jane Holmes died unexpectedly last June, her family decided to continue funding a scholarship she created for single parents six years ago.

“(Holmes) is a woman who reached out to other women,” said Carol Merrill, director of WSU’s Women’s Center. “She was very cognizant of the additional needs that single parents would have.”

After her death, her family poured money into the Jane Breen Holmes Scholarship Fund, making it the scholarship’s most lucrative year ever.

“Holmes was a phenomenal woman,” Merrill said. “She was very gracious, generous and humorous.”

Merrill said that two students have already received $5,000 scholarships from the fund this year, and another will receive $2,500.

“It’s not financial needs-based; it’s based on an individual who is committed to completing an educational plan and committed to their family,” Merrill said. “She wanted to award students who were dedicated to their schooling, families and community.”

The recipient can use the scholarship for tuition, books, child care or living expenses. The scholarship will also provide an opportunity for a single mother or father to receive an education while taking care of their children.

“We’re going to do whatever we can to sustain (the scholarship),” Merrill said. “(Holmes) was a total activist. She loved Weber State.”

More than 40 students applied for the $2,500 scholarship before the  Sept. 1 deadline, and students are now waiting to know who will be chosen. It was offered to juniors and seniors, but next year it will be open to all students.

Merrill said the retention rate of students who have received the scholarship is phenomenal. Many have surpassed a 3.0 GPA and have hit a 4.0. Others have graduated and created scholarships to give back, Merrill said.

Many of the recipients meet with Merrill monthly to talk about how far they’ve come along.

“Keeping our relationship open with our students is important to us,” Merrill said.

There are many other opportunities being offered to students in the Women’s Center. Jen Parkinson is a junior who works as an office assistant and receives a half tuition waiver by working 12 hours a week. She heard about the opportunities online.

Parkinson said tuition jobs are good ways to save money on education and could also be good to have on a resume for future jobs. She helps with different events and projects along with Wendie Henrie, who is the office specialist. Parkinson also helps out with programs and different activities during specific focus months, such as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

The idea behind the scholarships is that they will be open to people who really need them.

“All the women who have it really do need that money,” Parkinson said.

In January, a book will be published called Financial Aid for Women. The book will have information about scholarships in many different areas that students are going into. January is the key month in the start of the scholarship season, Merrill said.