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.