The 12 women who have benefited from the Women’s Resource Center’s new Educational Opportunity Program are from all walks of life. Some are single mothers who want to create a better life for themselves and their children. Others are married or plan to be married but know they need to have skills to be able to take care of themselves.
Education: On the road to self-sufficiency
The Women’s Resource Center established three funds to support women’s educational goals. One is a scholarship for a first-generation La Plata County graduate to Fort Lewis College; the second is a scholarship for a non-traditional student; and the third is the Educational Opportunity Fund that will offer grants for any kind of classes, workshops, seminars, or certification programs that will improve a woman’s ability to earn a sustainable living for herself and her family.
Haley Shanbarger, who graduated from Durango High School this spring, is the first recipient of the WRC First-Generation Scholarship to Fort Lewis College. She hopes to obtain an engineering degree, “since science and math are my two favorite subjects.”
The Women’s Resource Center accepts applications for Educational Opportunity funding every month to be responsive to immediate needs. Here are some of the recipients:
- Marcia Vining, an Ignacio resident, received an Educational Opportunity Fund grant to pursue a master’s degree in library science so that she eventually can land a job as a librarian and earn a sustainable income. She currently works as an assistant at the Ignacio Library. With the downturn in the economy, the family income has dropped, and the Vinings have been struggling to make ends meet. The Opportunity Fund grant will allow her to earn a degree that will make a difference in her family’s life, she said.
- The Educational Opportunity Fund also helped Julie Vidojkovic with the purchase of a computer so that she could pursue a two-year, online program to become an information technician. Vidojkovic says she has worked in the food industry most of her life, but has struggled financially “just to get by.” A degree in computer science will allow her to “start over and have a future.”
- With budget cuts and staff layoffs affecting school districts everywhere, Marie Compton hopes that a master’s degree in information and learning technologies will give her a stronger skill set to “improve my career potential.” Compton entered the teaching profession 14 years ago but has had to move to six different schools in seven years because of staffing cuts. Last year, she was forced to work as a substitute because no full-time positions in the district where she worked were available.The grant that the Women’s Resource Center provided will allow her to obtain her master’s degree. “I will not only be a better-trained professional, but I will also be more economically self-sufficient,” she says.
- When Kimberly Davis dropped by the Women’s Resource Center to pick up the check to pay for her first semester at Southwest Colorado Community College, she was giddy with excitement and anticipation.The support that the Women’s Resource Center has provided was the last piece of a complex funding puzzle that will allow her to obtain her certification as a radiological technician.“I live on a very tight budget that does not allow me to pay for school,” she said. “My education will eventually afford me health insurance and the ability to send my children to college.”
- “I am very happy and appreciative that I was selected as the recipient of the scholarship,” wrote Alex Kunkel in a thank-you note to the Women’s Resource Center. “You have lightened my financial burden, which allows me to focus on nursing school. This enables me to better myself and one day give back to the community with health care,” she writes.
- Gretchen Groenke has been working as a farm hand and self-employed gardener, but wants to support women as a certified labor doula. Her grant helped to pay for her educational materials to pursue her goal.“I am very grateful for the potential opportunity to pursue both a life and career path that will complement my values, the needs of my family and benefit the great good of women,” she said.
- As a teenager, Emily Campbell was diagnosed with epilepsy and learned to find solace in her horses. Then, when she had her daughter, she realized she had to pursue her dreams if she wanted her daughter to do the same, and that’s to start a wellness center for trauma victims using animals as therapy.Campbell is enrolled in an accelerated program at Fort Lewis College to obtain her master’s degree in social work from Denver University. But because she’s “technically” enrolled in a master’s program, she no longer qualifies for a Pell Grant, a federal financial aid program. Without the Pell Grant, she can’t continue in school.The support she received from the Women’s Resource Center will allow her to finish both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and to pursue her dreams.
“Just as snowboarding, horseback riding and my daugher gave me the courge I needed to pursue my dream and overcome life’s hurdles, I hope upon completion of my MSW, I too can help others succeed and realize their greatest dreams.”