BY JENNIFER KIGER CHAPMAN
In their 2020 report Through a Gender Lens: The Economic Security of Women and Girls in Forsyth County, Forsyth Futures studied the effects of education and other factors on the economic success of women in Forsyth County. They found that “female residents with higher levels of education earn more income, and higher levels of education can increase the likelihood that children in low-income families will become higher-earning adults.”1
In no uncertain terms, a college degree can be transformational, particularly for parenting mothers, because their academic success affects their employment opportunities and lifelong earning potential which ultimately impacts their children’s access to health care, health outcomes, and academic and career success. In fall 2019, 1 in 5 college students was reported to be parenting a teen or child while enrolled in classes.2 Although college parents typically have GPAs higher than their non-parenting peers, 52% of college parents leave school without a degree compared to 32% of those without children. Of those that persist, only 28% graduate from college with a degree within 6 years of initial enrollment.
In an effort to improve the outcomes for student mothers in Winston-Salem and support their economic empowerment, a group of local businesswomen called the Professional Women of Winston-Salem (PWWS) started a scholarship fund in 2000 which is awarded annually to single mothers living in or attending school in Forsyth County.
The scholarship is intended to help single mothers complete their education while juggling the demands of family, work, and school, all while demonstrating a strong commitment to their academic studies. It also helps to lower their overall education debt and allows the recipient to focus more on schoolwork and work fewer hours.
To date, the group has awarded scholarships of $2,000 each to 20 single working mothers in Forsyth County. Last year’s winner was Briana Coad (pictured with son, Lorenzo), a student at Winston-Salem State University majoring in exercise science with a concentration in fitness and performance. While accepting her award Briana shared, “This scholarship means a lot to me and my son. When I became a mom, my perspective on life shifted. With this award, I’ve felt a sense of achievement and my son continues to motivate me to be the best that I can. A strong background in education is going to be what sets the pathway to my career and will ultimately determine the life I can give to Lorenzo.” After graduation, Briana plans to go to physical therapy school.
- Forsyth Futures. (2020) Through a Gender Lens: The Economic Security of Women and Girls in
Forsyth County. www.wfgenderlens.org/
- United States Government Accountability Office. (Aug 2019) Report to Congressional Requesters on
Higher Education. www.gao.gov/assets/gao-19-522.pdf