Oct 142008
Authors: Jessica Cline

Last year, CSU senior Shawnee McPahil worked three jobs while taking 18 credit hours at school and raising her three-year-old — all to be able to afford daycare for her son, Tristan.

Now, though, the English Education major has a scholarship from the United Way WomenGive program, which helps fund all of her childcare expenses.

The program is dedicated to raising money for single parents who would like to go back to school. If parents qualify for the program, their child’s care is completely paid off for the entire semester.

“The scholarship provides me with the ability to work and go to school full-time and make sure that my son gets his education through the Colorado Preschool Program,” McPahil said.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford (these things),” she said, “without receiving (WomenGive’s) help or without putting myself further and further into debt.”

The program began when a group of Larimer County women, known as WomenGive, identified the need for childcare scholarships after having noticed that paying for daycare can become a barrier preventing single parents in Larimer County from getting an education, said Joy Nyenhuis, community investment associate for United Way.

Not only does the program fund child care for those in need, but it also helps them set financial goals, helps them with resumes and sets aside time to meet with each participant individually.

Last semester, McPahil also said, United Way’s emergency funding helped her pay for her books.

“Some of the recipients are on the verge of completing a degree,” Nyenhuis said. “It is exciting to see them reach their goal and have their degree completed and to realize how this will open more doors for them in career development and self sufficiency.”

The program was originally funded with the United Way WomenGive trust fund — money directly donated by women within the WomenGive group. But after realizing single mothers’ severe need for monetary assistance, the state of Colorado stepped in to help funding, awarding Larimer County federal Temporary Assistance of Needy Families dollars for the program. Last month, $500,000 was awarded to the program.

Since the program’s start in the fall of 2007, 38 scholarships have been awarded.

“Recipients are truly appreciative and have each testified in their own ways,” Nyenhuis said.

Tina Stevens, a CSU junior who also receives aid, agreed.

“It’s given me confidence that I can do something for myself and for my daughter,” Stevens said. “I hope that by seeing me achieve my goals, she will want to do the same.”

Applications for the program are being accepted through today and can be found at http://womengivelarimercounty.org.

Qualified recipients must be nominated and are students taking nine credit hours or more with at least a 2.0 grade point average. Only single parents willing to participate in child care programs are eligible.

“The United Way program has so many things to help families, single families and low-income residents, that I don’t think everyone knows how beneficial the program is and how it can help you,” McPahil said.

Now, she plans to stay in Fort Collins to teach and tutor at one of the local schools, goals that she previously may not have been able to achieve.

“I am one semester away from graduating, which will allow me to be self sufficient,” she said.

Staff writer Jessica Cline can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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