Trying to reach financial stability can seem like an endless struggle for a single parent.
“I took one step forward and kept getting knocked back a few steps,” said Sherrie Johnson of Brewster.
Two years ago Johnson joined HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency program, which helps low-income families build assets and make progress toward moving away from public assistance. Participants get long-term counseling to help them build their employment skills and increase their financial literacy.
Jan Nelson, HAC’s FSS coordinator, told Johnson about the One Family Scholars, a comprehensive college scholarship program that breaks the cycle of poverty and family homelessness for low-income single parents. Unlike traditional scholarship programs that focus solely on tuition assistance, the One Family Scholars model focuses on four building blocks for success: college success, financial success, career success and leadership success. The goal is to help people secure family-sustaining employment in their field.
“It’s a fantastic program,” said Nelson. “The grant includes money for education and a monthly stipend for low-income single parents who want to improve their status in life. One Family Scholars believes that education is the way.”
A mother of two who is taking courses at Cape Cod Community College, Johnson hopes to start working on a bachelor’s degree in business next semester through UMass Dartmouth. Johnson, who has worked at CVS for 16 years, said, “Before I could only afford to take two courses. With this I can take four.
“I’d like to start a publishing house. I try to read at least one novel a week. Some aren’t that great and some are amazing. I’d like to have some say in what gets published.”
Jessica Edwards of West Yarmouth is another One Family scholarship winner. The mother of three is working on an associate’s degree at Cape Cod Community College and hopes to one day get a bachelor’s degree in communications. She is picking up skills in web design, graphic design and layout, and office management.
“I’m getting an incredible foundation. I want to have enough varied skills so I can make my schedule fit in with what my kids have going on,” she says.
Edwards appreciates that the scholarship comes with guidance in other areas. “I absolutely love the financial planning aspect of it,” she said. “They set you up with Compass Financial, which works through your budget with you. It’s like the financial planning that rich people can afford.”
Founded in 1999 by Paul and Phyllis Fireman and family, One Family is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending family homelessness in Massachusetts by working with elected officials, faith and community leaders, businesses and foundations, and higher learning institutions. With the skills and experience gained from their tenure in the program, One Family Scholars become role models for their children, providing them with the foundation for a stable life.