Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County
Can you share a little bit about yourselves before we get started on your professional roles?
Andrea: I have worked with non-profits for over 7 years. I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation Administration and Event Management from Florida State University. This role is a natural fit since I am passionate about event planning and working with non-profit organizations. I live in Rogers with my boyfriend Jason and our cat, Cali.
Jack: I’ve worked with non-profits for the past 23 years. I earned my Master of Science degree in Leadership and Ethics from John Brown University. I’ve always had a passion for organizations that help people. I’ve been married to Sue for over 30 years and have 2 married kids and our first grandchild, Carson.
Can you share a little bit about this organization and its mission?
Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County’s (SPSFBC) mission is to enable single parents to achieve self-sufficiency through post-secondary education. SPSFBC utilizes a holistic approach to remove barriers to education faced by low-income single parents residing in Benton County, Arkansas. Many employed single parents find themselves unable to achieve financial stability. Acknowledging that post-secondary credentials will advance them in the workplace, many single parents choose to return to school. Most scholarship recipients qualify for federal financial aid that covers direct school expenses. If a gap exists in aid, SPSFBC funds are used to pay the school first. Residual funds are used to pay basic living expenses, such as rent, utilities, daycare and transportation.
What caused you to get involved with SPSFBC?
Jack: I’ve worked with nonprofits for the past 23 years and I personally feel it is a calling to serve and help others. I was with NWA Children’s Shelter for over 13 years and the Alzheimer’s Association for 3. It’s about serving and helping anyone that needs help. 3 years ago I heard that SPSFBC had an opening for Executive Director and here we are today. This organization is making a huge impact on single parents and their children, as well as our economy.
Andrea: The organization has had great successes over the past 30 years. It has a great mission, staff, volunteers and supporters. Most importantly, it has a great record of success with its students.
We know that this organization has had some press coverage – can you share a few examples?
Most recently Andrea and Jack were both featured in the 29th edition of the NWA Business Journal. Andrea was a guest on “Focus on Suppliers” with Neile Jones from 8th and Walton. Both Andrea and Jack have had numerous opportunities highlighted in newspaper, magazines, and radio and television interviews.
Can you share any challenges you’ve experienced in this job?
There are always challenges in non-profits and SPSFBC is not exempt from them. SPSFBC continues to grow as we become more social media friendly. We also have recently gone through a rebranding process and we hope to get the word out to everyone about all the wonderful things happening here. Like all non-profits, we need to continue growing our supporters so that we may continue impacting the lives of our recipients and their children.
What about some successes?
In 2015 we awarded 419 scholarships to help 150 single parents and their 289 children. We provided $20,000 in gasoline assistance and $332,275 in scholarships for a total of $352,275.
Also, in 2015, 29 recipients earned credentials. Of those 29, eight continued in further education, 1 is waiting to test for her nursing certificate and 20 are now employed in our community (3 did not report income). Of those who reported their income, their average household income was $10,068 when they entered the program. After successfully completing the SPSFBC program, those same 17 individuals are now making an average household income of $36,300 annually. They were able to reduce or eliminate government assistance and use of other community resources and are all above the poverty level. With these results, those families are putting an additional $445,944 back into our economy annually on an investment of $160,575 by SPSFBC donors.
Can you share a success story from someone involved with you?
Yes! Here is a letter from one of our recipients:
I am a recipient of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund in Benton County. I became a single parent in 2009 and was a student at both Northwest Arkansas Community College and the University of Arkansas Fayetteville majoring in Journalism. There was a lot of uncertainty in my life at the time and the focus quickly shifted from my education to finding a full time job to support myself and my son. I dropped out of school and got a job in Rogers as a sales associate and through the next four years was promoted through various roles. One of my main responsibilities was to build community partnerships and bolster our involvement in the community. Through this I was able to meet my future boss at Sam’s Club Corporate Offices in Bentonville and was hired into the company in 2012. Over the next year and a half I learned about the culture of Walmart Inc. and it’s emphasis on work life balance and had yet to work for a company that valued that for its associates.
In 2013, I was promoted and this role was where I seriously began considering going back to school. The thought had always been something I considered, however I had not seen firsthand how valuable a degree could be in your professional career. Hard work was getting me promotions, but I was finally seeing the limitations that exist when you get to a certain level in the business world. I had a meeting with a mentor one day and I described that ultimately I wanted to be in a buying role and asked what it would take to get there and whether my mentor would consider hiring me based off of what was on my resume. He very honestly told me no because he didn’t see a degree listed for me and that “there is something to be said for people who finish something when it’s hard.” He was adamant that I would probably be his second choice if he had an open position but that if someone was looking to hire me strictly off of my resume, my resume did not do me justice.
These words sat with me for a long time and eventually I came to the decision that he was right. I want my resume to be my undeniable advocate for my career and achievements, especially when I am unable to meet someone face to face. The more important point for me personally was the testament that this would be to my son. I want him to know that nothing is impossible in this life. I want him to learn the value of hard work and to see how it pays off for you in life if you stay the course. These values are what ultimately made me decide to reach out to the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County.
I never anticipated the level of support that SPSFBC offers. Counseling for myself and my son, pantry items, financial support, providing me with a laptop for school, lending an ear to me when I needed professional advice; this organization is truly at the service of its recipients. In attending orientation, visiting the office and hearing other recipient’s testimony for how SPSFBC has affected their lives has only served as motivation for me in my education. There is something to be said when it’s 11:43pm at night and you are tired but still press on in your reading for school. I remember of my peers going through the same thing. I remember Sally’s advice to take five minutes, get up and fold some laundry or make a cup of coffee then go back to my assignment. I have remembered the support of the SPSFBC organization and it helps me stay motivated in my own studies. Their investment in me, my education and my life is invaluable. I have never felt like a scholarship recipient. I am a family member of SPSFBC.
SPSFBC was ultimately the catalyst that made me believe that completing my Bachelors in Business was attainable, even as a single mom. I have a security in knowing that they have my back in this journey and will be available to me every step of the way. I hope that my story can encourage other single parents to know that it is possible. Single parents already have one of the hardest jobs in existence, but SPSFBC understands this and does everything they can to make my journey a little easier.
What is your best piece of business advice for our audience today?
Although we always have to be focused on the present, when it comes to quality programs, quality services and building strong relationships/partnerships, we also think it is important to focus on sustainability for the future. Doing that guarantees being here for 30 more years and sharing even greater success stories.
How can individuals get involved with your organization?
Individuals interested in learning more about SPSFBC can go on our website (www.spsfbc.org) or call our office to schedule a time to stop by. We also have an Advisory and Corporate Council that we encourage volunteers and community members to join. Each council meets at noon 5 times a year at our office and lunch is provided. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to get the dates of the upcoming meetings and to learn more.
We know that SPSFBC regularly has events and speakers – anything coming up soon?
We have our annual Corporate Luncheon coming up on March 30, 2016 at the Embassy Suites in Rogers. This luncheon provides an opportunity for SPSFBC to thank its donors and bring awareness to the community about our organization. This year, Doug McMillon, President and CEO or Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., will be the featured speaker. We will also have an SPSFBC alumni, Dr. Sarah Beers, share her journey through the program and her story of success. Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased online at www.spsfbc.org/about/events. Call 479.254.8550 for more information.
How can our audience get in contact with you/keep up with what you are doing?
Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, 2601 SW D Street, Bentonville, AR 72712