Donor Spotlight - Amanda Bennett
I first got connected with JRF when I was working at UGA around 2006. I wanted to volunteer somewhere in the community and found JRF through searching a list of local organizations. I was intrigued by the volunteer opportunity and helped as a Level 1 scholarship application reader that year.
That was all it took for me to want to become more involved with JRF. I volunteered to be an application reader at whatever level they needed and I began attending fundraisers. The stories of the scholarship applicants were so diverse and inspirational. Reading those applications was actually a large part of what motivated me to go to back to school 10 years after I graduated with my undergraduate degree from UGA to pursue my Master's degree in Nonprofit Management.
I saw the huge value in what JRF was doing for its scholars and I knew I wanted to give back. When my husband and I were financially able to give enough for an annual scholarship, we started giving every year to JRF. We moved to Nashville almost three years ago, but I enjoy staying connected to JRF. I look forward to being engaged however I am able. I am humbled to be a small part of helping the JRF scholars not only achieve their dreams but also realize their potential and value.
Alexandra Dale Munro Kilpatrick’s Gift - Honoring the Legacy of a Life Well Lived
Alexandra Dale Munro Kilpatrick, better known as Alix, was an exceptionally intelligent woman whose life path drew her away from traditional educational opportunities. As the prospect of her life ending drew near, she contacted her cousin and childhood best friend, Donna Zenor, and asked her to research organizations that “enhance the lives of women through education.” She was interested in leaving a substantial portion of her estate to such an organization. Donna identified the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. Unfortunately, Alix died suddenly and was unable to leave the funds directly to JRF. Donna initially contacted JRF’s Executive Director, Sue Lawrence on October 17, 2013. From there it was a long and winding road that Donna pursued with persistence and dedication in order to honor the dying wishes of her dear cousin and friend Alix.
Alix lived a non-traditional life. A single child whose mother was the youngest of nine children of immigrant Norwegian parents, Alix was born in Phoenix, Arizona. However, she lived life on the world stage. She worked in a theater in Paris, France, and for a number of years she flew for American Airlines. She later settled in rural New Hampshire with her husband, Bob Kilpatrick. Alix became a master at various yoga disciplines, eventually opening a school after moving to New Zealand in her mid-fifties.
In the words of Donna; Alix was one of the most generous spirits to have ever inhabited this earth and the scholarship fund which the donor is establishing upon her death should be counted as one of the many gifts which are her legacy.
We received this transformative gift this year. We are grateful that Alix cared so deeply about the women we serve. We are grateful that Donna found us. And, we are grateful that Donna persisted through navigating the challenges of getting the funding to JRF.
This gift will transform the lives of JRF Scholars and their families for years and years to come.
Thank you Alix and Donna.
Annual Dinner Raises Critical Funds for Scholarships - Your Support of JRF says, “YES YOU CAN!”
Annual Dinner raises critical funds for scholarships - Your Support of JRF says, “Yes You Can!”
Daily at JRF, we have the privilege of connecting with inspiring women from across the US who refuse to give up and remain dedicated to pursuing higher education. Sometimes on the calls, there are laughs and sometimes there are tears of pain and joy. All of the time, there is financial, academic, and emotional support— none of which could be made available without you— our donors and volunteers.
Through our social media channels, we show you as much as we can about the journeys of the women served and essentially what the foundation values.
But, as seen at our recent Annual Dinner, there is nothing like meeting the women behind the phone calls, blogs, and social media posts in-person to hear them share their own stories and to connect them with generous people like you who have decided that their education matters.
During the dinner, Scholars from Georgia, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida and Portland, Oregon were honored for their academic dedication, but more importantly for their willingness to share their journeys with us, inspiring us to be more vigilant, optimistic, and resourceful in all that we do.
One JRF Scholar, Khadijah, joined us in pursuit of her Associate’s Degree after enduring years of abuse and homelessness. She had heard about the scholarship opportunity via word-of-mouth and said she really only applied on a whim because someone said, “Yes you can!” Khadijah shared to some of the attendees at her table that it wasn’t until she could quiet that little voice of doubt that always said, “no”, that she could really hear and listen to the voice that said, “Yes you can!”
It took a village of support and the sisterhood of the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund to convince her that she and her family truly deserved a higher quality of life through higher education. She just completed her first year of law school and because so many decided to pour into her future, she spends time each week mobilizing women within her own community.
Your attendance at the Annual Dinner, your financial support, and your invested time all breathe life into that little voice (one we all need to hear at some point) that says to women, “Yes you can.”
You have probably heard that when you educate a woman, you educate a village, and if one ever had any doubt that this isn’t in fact true, they haven’t met you or the scholars and families that you support.
Thanks to digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter, our Scholars are building bonds and empowering each other, across state lines and amidst differing time zones, extending the value of their shared Jeannette Rankin Foundation experience.
To know where we are heading, we must remember where we have come from and that’s the beauty of the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund. We celebrate Jeannette Rankin’s role as a social justice advocate and realize how her legacy lives on through JRF.
We celebrate our Scholars and our incredibly supportive communities because with each scholarship provided, another woman is provided with resources to empower herself, her family, and her community.
The Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund’s 40th Anniversary Annual Dinner celebrated these collective investments and accomplishments of women’s education with an eye to providing ever more support for the women who need us.
As a result of the dinner, $86,680 was raised. Know that your support as donors and volunteers gives so much more than scholarships.
Thank you again to all of our donors, our volunteers, our sponsors, and our board for making this event possible! Special thank you to our proud sponsor, Delta Air Lines! We hope to see your faces again soon at our SMART Party on November 10th at Ponce City Market, General Assembly.
Missed the event? Check out the pictures via our Flickr page.
“When they go low, we go high.” Taking the High Road to Higher Education
When speaking at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke as a woman, as a mother, as the First Lady, and as a wife. In her speech, the First Lady spoke of the importance of character, convictions, decency, and grace. Ultimately, these qualities of selflessness are crucial, yet often overlooked, in today’s leaders.
Jeannette Rankin Women's Scholarship Fund's Executive Director, Karen Sterk, asserts that,
“As supporters of women’s education and empowerment, we are excited to be witnessing this historic moment in our country’s history. Jeannette Rankin was the first woman elected to Congress 100 years ago this November, running on the Republican ticket. One hundred years later, the Democrat nominee for President is a woman. While we are a non-partisan organization, we applaud women getting involved in public service and we see the parallels between the work they do and the work of our scholars."
Each day at the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund (JRF), we are inspired by the selflessness of our scholars. Many have children and are struggling to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. Still, they rise each morning more dedicated than before to earn an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree. JRF Scholars don’t stop because they understand their achievements are for the bettering of themselves, their family, their community, and this nation.
A significant number of our scholars are also single parents, so when they decide to make a temporary sacrifice to complete their degree, they take on a deliberate risk to better their children’s futures. Like leaders in today’s political movement, JRF Scholars have decided to redefine limited historic definitions of what success looks like in America.
When we talk to our single-parent scholars, they talk about their journey through the lens of their children. They proudly describe how they sit and do homework together at the table. Some women were once homeless, yet they always made sure their children were in school each day for a meal and for an education. Some women find energy in helping other women in their communities obtain their GEDs so that they too can go to college. Others laugh as they reflect on their sleepless nights or how many times they had to start over. They keep going.
Often, our JRF Scholars enter our sisterhood of scholarship and support after hitting some sort of breaking point. During Obama’s DNC speech this week, she shared that her motto to her daughters in the face of adversity is, “when they go low, we go high.” In response to low points, JRF Scholars have taken the high road to higher education. By taking the high road, they decide to believe in themselves despite any public or private criticisms of who they should be or what they should be limited to achieve.
For the children of our scholars, their mothers are their champions and, in turn, the children are also their mothers’ champions. When we ask women how they seek joy in the midst of being a non-traditional student and parent, they usually say it’s their children who keep them laughing and remembering why they are doing it. In turn, the women are refueled with energy to complete their Associate’s or their Bachelor’s degree for access to better resources and to be bigger champions for their children’s success.
Together JRF Scholars and their children have forged ways to achieve personal, professional, and academic goals. When children participate in this intentional work, they are being groomed to break cycles of poverty through education. One of our dedicated volunteers is barely 10 years old. She gives of her time because she already has a growing appreciation of women’s education.
Every day we all have the opportunity to shape the future of America’s children. For 40 years JRF has been empowering women through education, providing them scholarships to help them complete their degrees to not just make a living but to make a life.
Click here to empower champions through the Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund.
For 30 years, I ran from myself. Now, I’m graduating from college!
"Hitting me with a truck.
Chaining me to a stove.
Pouring boiling hot water on me.
Being sold and re-sold.”
Allie has overcome a lot of trauma. She now has a 4.0 GPA and is graduating with her Associate’s Degree in English in December 2016. She plans to transfer into a B.A. program at the University of Houston. In the midst of her traumatic childhood experiences, she still graduated from high school at the age of 17. She even went straight to college afterward, but she went through over 30 years of destruction before she was ready to return.
As she is stepping into a new space, we asked her to dig deeper into a darker side of herself that she has done a lot of work to heal from. Personal healing can sometimes comes in the form of sharing our stories.
Today, in addition to being a student, Allie works with different community organizations in Houston to bridge gaps between healthcare and criminal justice professionals, two entities that interact most often with abused women.
Click play on the YouTube video below to listen to Allie’s story, recorded by 3rdMilClassroom. Keep reading to see what she shared with the us as a Jeannette Rankin Scholar.
At the age of 3, Allie was raped by her grandfather for the first time.
Allie endured this traumatic abuse until she was 11 years old when he passed away.
Soon after, she decided she had had enough and decided to run away. To survive, she ran into the arms of “boyfriends” who were 20-30 years old and offered her food, shelter, clothing, and drugs in exchange for sexual favors.
Allie soon started getting into human trafficking. For a long time, she didn’t even acknowledge that what she was doing was called human trafficking and prostitution.
Allie goes back and forth through unstable spaces for years, desperately looking for “a high or experience to cope with issues [she] didn’t want to deal with.”
In her early teens, she started experiencing flashbacks from her past and that’s when her family realized that something was extremely wrong. Drugs helped temporarily suppress the anxiety of the flashbacks.
“I was scared of my own voice.”
You could say she has a bit of a Breaking Bad story because she started making meth by stealing from her school’s chemistry lab. Her successful drug operation led her to develop a heroin addiction. “Addiction turned the fear [of my own experiences] into hate. At that point, everything I was cooking, I was using.”
Allie shared that what most people don’t understand is drugs, sexual abuse, prostitution, human trafficking are all related forms of power and self-destruction.
When she moved to South Central L.A., her body became a part of a local gang’s initiation process. The initiates were forced to kidnap Allie, rob her, and take turns having their fun with her. Her trafficker coincidentally always showed up to save her after these events.
Even when her trafficker stabbed her, this still wasn’t her wake up call because she had fallen in love with him and he made her feel less broken. Amidst the beatings and mistreatment, there was a twisted form of affection and acknowledgment that she feigned for from him.
After going to jail for an eighth felony, Allie decided she was ready to do the work to heal from her past and to save herself.
“For the first time, I was forced to surrender to my reality.”
In 2014, Allie enrolled in a vocational school in Houston after being denied admission to countless programs because of her paper trail of mistakes and felonies.
For so long, she was really just trying to make it, especially with her former trafficker of 8.5 years. If she ever came home empty-handed, he always greeted her with a beating.
“In order to survive emotionally, I created someone else who was able to deal with those stressors."
When do you find space for education in the midst of fighting for daily life?
An oppressor’s strongest biggest weapon is to deny one access to education, to deny one the opportunity of being empowered and educated. An educated woman is dangerous because she is able to rewrite and re-shape her narrative. An education equips women with more resources to be self-sufficient and to better serve her community.
"At first, I didn’t want to dream big because it required sacrifices to be made.”
Allie has been clean for three years and has used her resourceful nature to seek financial aid for her education. We are beyond proud to have her as one of our Jeannette Rankin Scholars.
She facilitates focus groups with imprisoned women who’ve endured child exploitation by using storytelling and art as coping mechanisms.
When she isn’t studying or serving in the community, she loves to spend time with her grandmother and belove dog.
Pictured on right is Allie's grandmother and her beloved dog. Pictured on left is an original piece created by Allie.
“My grandmother has seen me with black eyes and with my pimps and she still loves me unconditionally. She’s my rock.”