Belinda Cotten

Belinda Cotten is a single mother of two daughters, Carmela and Kaliyah. She graduated from MSSU in December 2008 with a degree in Business Management/HR. She was a scholarship and merit bonus recipient for her last semester of college with the precursor to the Aspire Scholarship Program—the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Jasper & Newton Counties. She currently is a Transfer Admission Counselor at Missouri Southern State University, and also serves on the Aspire board of directors. 

“My main goal of going to college was to set a good example for my kids and give my family better financial opportunities,” she said. But it was a difficult road to graduation. Belinda said, “It was very difficult to balance everything: work, school, study, family/social life, parenting, and sleep. Being a single parent is the hardest job in the world!” She explained, “I had given birth to my daughter during Thanksgiving break and had to sit out a semester to complete unfinished coursework.” She added, “Finding affordable childcare to attend classes was difficult and I had to take out loans to pay for daycare.” 

She said with a newborn, finding quiet time to study was difficult and she often went through the week averaging four hours of sleep a night. To add to her troubles, her home was burglarized and her laptop stolen. She said, “I used the scholarship award to replace my laptop since taking a 9-month-old baby to campus computer labs to do homework was not an option!” The Aspire scholarship greatly benefitted her because, “it allowed me to study at home after my daughter went to sleep and enabled me to complete my last semester without missing assignments and homework.”

Belinda said, “MSSU has been a wonderful place to work…If I had never received my degree, I would not have had this opportunity.” She added, “Personally, it has made me proud that I overcame challenges. I can show my girls that no matter what, they can overcome life’s circumstances and still be successful.”

Her determination has become an inspiration for her oldest daughter. She’s “already chosen MSSU as her college and wants to work at the University, just like Mommy!” Belinda said, “I think she is proud of my accomplishments. She was my inspiration for continuing my education. We often talk about the importance of education and getting a college degree.”

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